The Obama administration scored a victory of sorts in federal court Monday when a judge threw out an Orange County, Calif., gay couple's lawsuit claiming that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Just last week, a top U.S. Justice Department lawyer sought the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the couple, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer of Mission Viejo, had failed to identify any personal harm suffered because of the 1996 law. The law bars the federal government from treating same-sex marriages as legal or granting federal benefits for gay spouses.
Assistant Attorney General Tony West, in his brief filed before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, agreed with Smelt and Hammer that the law was discriminatory and should be repealed. But West noted that he was obliged to defend the law until Congress moved to repeal or amend it. He urged the court to dismiss the men's suit on grounds that their allegations "fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
Carter agreed, explaining in his seven-page decision that the absence of "an injury in fact" meant his court lacked jurisdiction to consider the broader constitutional questions.
The administration's ambivalence over gay marriage has incurred anger on both sides of the debate.