Month: February 2011

Obama: Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act

 

WASHINGTON (February 23, 2011) – The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM andWindsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:

 

In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court.  Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment.   While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.

 

Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated.   In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

 

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.   The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.   Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.   I fully concur with the President’s determination.

 

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

 

Furthermore, pursuant to the President ’ s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President’s and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

 

The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense.   At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a “reasonable” one.   Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional.

 

Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA.  The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional.   Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional.   Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law.   But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.

 

Contact Info: Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, 11-222  Attorney General

 

Media provided by www.GayWebSource.com – Gay Press Network

ENDOWED AVIATION SCHOLARSHIP ANNOUNCED

SAN JOSE, CA, January 15, 2011 – In 2011, for the first time, the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA) Education Fund will award an endowed scholarship. This long-anticipated endowed scholarship will go to the highest caliber student pursuing a career as a professional pilot. This scholarship, set at $7000, will be awarded in conjunction with the 2011 scholarship campaign that commences January 1 with the deadline to apply of March 31, 2011. Awards will be announced in June.

In addition to the endowed scholarship, the Education Fund Board of Directors previously approved a 2011 scholarship budget of $15,000. Now, including the endowed scholarship, more than $20,000 may be awarded in 2011. Four scholarships of $3,750 each were granted in 2010.

The National Gay Pilots Association created the Education Fund in 1996 to encourage members of the LGBT community to pursue careers as pilots.  Through general fundraising appeals, and by soliciting gifts to our endowment, the NGPA Education Fund intends to provide as much immediate capital to the GLBT aviation community as possible, while preserving and building an endowment for the future. Captain Tom Little, NGPA-EF Chairman stated, “Many long-time NGPA members have made significant personal donations or participated in various fund-raising events to bring the endowment assets to a level that now makes this a reality.”

Applications will be scored as in previous years with the potential for an outstanding, top-rated candidate to be honored with this special award. Factors considered include: demonstrated academic ability, financial need, and active participation in matters of social justice toward the betterment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The strength of the applicant’s commitment to supporting and bettering the LGBT community is one of the criteria established in considering applicants; however, scholarships will be awarded without regard to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or other group categories protected by non-discrimination laws.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Steve Walker, Executive Director

Email: ExecDir@ngpa.org

Media Provided by www.GayWebSource.com – Gay Media and Press Network.

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