Tue Feb 5, 2013, 10:22 AM
DonViejo (18,022 posts)
Obama’s Shifts May Affect U.S. Legal Plan on Gay Marriage
WASHINGTON — The practice of law would be much more pleasant, many lawyers will tell you over a second Scotch, if it did not require clients. It is one thing to construct an airtight legal argument and quite another to deal with the demands of inconstant human beings.
Consider Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s most prominent client, President Obama. In May, in announcing his support for same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama said the issue should be decided state by state. In his Inaugural Address last month, Mr. Obama seemed to make a case for a more national approach.
The timing was awkward. Mr. Verrilli is in the midst of considering what to tell the Supreme Court in a pair of momentous same-sex marriage cases to be argued in March. Just days before the inauguration, he met with lawyers challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage, who urged him to weigh in on their side. He was noncommittal, but his client’s public marching orders until then had suggested that he should sit that one out.
Here is what Mr. Obama told Robin Roberts of ABC News in May: “What you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.”
That reasoning fits tolerably well with the Justice Department’s position in one of the two cases before the Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307. That case is a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman in connection with federal benefits. The Defense of Marriage Act, Mr. Obama explained in May, “tried to federalize what has historically been state law.”
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