White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that President Obama’s “evolving” view on same-sex marriage will not evolve any further in his upcoming State of the Union address, telling reporters at an afternoon press briefing that “I’m not aware that there is any change coming on that in the State of the Union at this point.” At an end of the year press conference in December, Obama said that he struggles with the issue of marriage and hinted that he may soon move beyond simply supporting civil unions.
Gibbs also defended the Justice Department’s recent brief supporting the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Gibbs argued that even though the administration would like to see the law repealed, the Justice Department has a responsibility to “represent the viewpoint of the defendant.” He described the chances of repeal passing in the current Congress as “inordinately challenging”:
CHIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade : Do you still see repeal happening in the course of the Obama administration?
GIBBS: Given the current make-up of the Congress, that is inordinately challenging and I think he said so in interviews.
JOHNSON: Are there any regrets about not pushing for repeal more forcefully when Democrats had control of both chambers of Congress?
GIBBS: I think we are enormously proud of and grateful for the progress that we have been able to make. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was an achievement of — I think it will be thought of not just of this administration, but for all those involved, a monumental achievement in bringing equality and justice back….Obviously, we didn’t get everything we wanted to get done done, but we’re proud of what we did get done.
Some scholars and LGBT leaders have argued that the administration is under no obligation to defend DOMA if it believes the law to be unconstitutional and have called on Obama to drop his defense of the law. “The administration claims that it has a duty to defend the laws that are on the books. We simply do not agree. At the very least, the Justice Department can and should acknowledge that the law is unconstitutional,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said when the brief was filed last week.
In 2009, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced The Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, which would repeal the DOMA and allow the government to provide benefits to married gay couples.