"The administration is using many of the same flawed legal arguments that the Bush administration used," the statement says. "These arguments rightly have been rejected by several state supreme courts as legally unsound and obviously discriminatory."
The statement is signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Gay & Lesbian Taskforce.
The groups take issue with DOMA being presented as a valid exercise of Congress' power and as not impinging on the rights of equal protection and due process.
They also say they are "extremely disturbed" by an argument that the federal government must be "neutral" in its treatment of same-sex couples to ensure that federal tax money taken across the country is not used to assist married same-sex couples in certain states.
"There is nothing 'neutral' about the federal government's discriminatory denial of fair treatment to married same-sex couples," the statement says. "This notion of 'neutrality' ignores the fact that while married same-sex couples pay their full share of income and social security taxes, they are prevented by DOMA from receiving the corresponding same benefits that married heterosexual taxpayers receive."
The groups ask President Obama to commit to his campaign promises and promptly "introduce a bill to repeal DOMA and ensure that every married couple in America has the same access to federal protections."
But Raben noted that the Justice Department makes a number of statements in its filing to show empathy toward gay married couples and to be sensitive to Obama's pledge to repeal DOMA.
"Some of it's really sensitive and they've gone out of their way to … say gay marriage can be a great thing," he said. "I really was impressed that the Department of Justice that I used to work at used such supportive and sensitive language."
He noted that the brief starts by saying that in recent years some states have granted gay couples "the freedom to marry as a basic civil right."
"They didn't have to describe marriage that way," he said. "The freedom to marry? They're using our language. It's fantastic."
But Raben noted that after the introduction, the Justice Department goes on to "say really stupid things."
"Like many lawyers, it's over-argued," he said. "There's too much in there — much more than is necessary to state the opinion of the Department of Justice."