LOS ANGELES — Gay rights groups expressed dismay with the Obama administration Friday over its championing of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law the president pledged to try to repeal while on the campaign trail.
The government filed a motion late Thursday to dismiss the case of Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who are challenging the 1996 federal act. The law prevents couples in states that recognize same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and other federal rights of marriage.
U.S. Department of Justice lawyers argued that the act _ known informally as DOMA _ is constitutional and contended that awarding federal marriage benefits to gays would infringe on the rights of taxpayers in the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages.
"The president made very explicit and emphatic campaign promises that he opposes DOMA and would provide leadership calling on Congress to repeal it," said Jennifer Pizer, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. "This brief is not consistent with that promise."
Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Friday that the department is abiding by its standard practice of defending existing law and that the filing doesn't mean Obama has changed his mind about wanting to see gay couples win federal recognition.
"Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system," Schmaler said.