President Obama threw a bone Monday to the LGBT activists he first pissed off in June by filing a brief arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act is both constitutional and a defense against incest and pedophilia. The concession took the form of a new brief in Smelt v. United States that now says his administration is committed to a DOMA repeal but -- don't get too excited -- also argues that DOMA itself is constitutional and Smelt should be dismissed.
Obama is going through the motions of finally making good on the campaigning that won him the gay and lesbian vote. However, while it may look like Obama is making an actual move toward overturning DOMA, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth and letting the status quo go on unchanged, saying that while he does not agree with DOMA, it is still constitutional.
Obama has been criticized for his lack of action on repealing both DOMA and the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy banning openly gay people from serving in the military. And the criticism was earned: while Obama has treaded water on empty promises and Pride Month receptions, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand has actually secured hearings for the potential repeal of DADT, while the best Obama has been able to do for gay rights is file a brief that doesn't say that legalization of gay marriage leads to pedophilia. Congratulations, Mr. President!
The brief, which is the second Obama has filed in reply to DOMA since he took office seven months ago, once again gives the president the opportunity to pass the buck to Congress.
"The administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, because it prevents equal rights and benefits.
The Justice Department, she added, is obligated "to defend federal statutes when they are challenged in court. The Justice Department cannot pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one administration's policy preferences."
Monday's court filing was in response to a lawsuit by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who are challenging the federal law, which prevents couples in states that recognize same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and benefiting from other federal rights connected to marriage.
Justice lawyers have argued that the act is constitutional and contend that awarding federal marriage benefits to gays would infringe on the rights of taxpayers in the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages.
While the most horrifying part of the situation is that Obama is still completely failing to take any action on GLBT issues, it is also shocking that no media outlets seem to be calling him out on his puppetry. Headlines are positive, and none of the so-called journalistic watchdogs are even raising an eyebrow at whether Obama's intentions actually have any muscle behind them. People: intent is not the same as actual legislation!
We're all in the same boat hoping that Obama's campaign critics weren't right, and that there's no shoulder behind the powerful rhetoric and charm, but so far, we're still waiting to see Obama really make a push for gay issues.
Read more of Air America's coverage of Obama and the GLBT community.