07/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

White House Defends Anti-Gay Marriage Brief Amid Furor

A week after the Justice Department filed a motion in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, White House Press Secretary reiterated the president's commitment to changing that law.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon -- just hours before the President was set to sign a presidential memorandum to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees -- Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fielded a question from ABC News' Jake Tapper about the administration's position on the Defense of Marriage Act.

TAPPER: Does the president stand by the legal brief that the Justice Department filed last week that argued in favor the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act?

GIBBS: Well, as you know, that the Justice Department is charged with upholding the law of the land, even though the president believes that that law should be repealed.

TAPPER: I understand that, but a lot of legal experts say that the brief didn't have to be as comprehensive and make all the arguments that it made, such as comparing same-sex unions to incestuous ones, in one controversial paragraph...

GIBBS: Well...

TAPPER: ...that's upset a lot of the president's supporters. Does the president stand by the content, the arguments made in that brief?

GIBBS: Well, again, it's the president's Justice Department. And, again, we have the role of upholding the law of the land while the president has stated and will work with Congress to change that law.

The Justice Department motion prompted outrage from many in the gay community, including Massachusetts Sen. Barney Frank, who said the administration had made a "big mistake."

Several gay donors also withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fundraising event next week, in protest of the administration's position.

And while gay right groups say that Obama's benefits announcement is a step forward, many think it's too little, too late.

Even administration officials admit that the timing of the announcement is intended to help contain growing anger inside the gay community.

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