Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Justice Department told reporters Monday that defending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were “difficult” for the Obama administration.
“Those are difficult cases because as you know the administration has a long standing policy view on this — supports the repeal of DOMA and supports the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’,” West said in response to a question from TPM.“Those are both congressional statues which require Congress to repeal them, they can’t be undone by executive order,” West said. “The Department of Justice, notwithstanding the administration policy view which is strongly held by us, has an institutional responsibility to defend the constitutionality of congressional statutes, whether we agree with them or not,” West added.
The Civil Division of the Justice Department, which defends the laws passed by Congress, has worked with the Civil Rights Division’s liaison to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to make sure that future briefings don’t advance arguments that they would find offensive. President Barack Obama told liberal bloggers recently that his views on gay marriage could evolve.
West said Monday that DOJ was discharging its responsibility to the tradition of the Justice Department while making adjustments to the arguments in line with the administration’s views.
“I think that the best example — let me give you one — in the Defense of Marriage Act — you’ll notice that we have not only discharged our responsibility to defend the constitutionality of a congressional statute, but we’ve done so in a way which reflects the policy values of this administration,” West said.
“We disavowed some arguments that we believed had no basis in fact, and in fact we presented the court through our briefs with information which seemed to undermine some of the previous rationales that have been used defense of that statute,” West added.
“We believe that’s being an honest broker with the court, and that’s the way we’ll continue to discharge our responsibility,” West said.
[Ed note: Obama’s meeting was with a group of liberal bloggers which included at least one gay blogger.]