Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mere discriminations

I know: how reassuring to have a President follow the rule of law after eight years of unitary executives and signing statements; a Bush appointee in a Cabinet department is not a Bush apparatchik; but why do I still feel sick about the kind of language employed the Department of Justice's brief? Law Dork gets it exactly right:
It’s offensive, it’s dismissive, it’s demeaning and — most importantly — it’s unnecessary. Even if one accepts that DOJ should have filed a brief opposing this case (and the facts do suggest some legitimate questions about standing), the gratuitous language used throughout the filing goes much further than was necessary to make its case.
I'm referring, of course, to DOJ's motion to dismiss a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act policy on Thursday afternoon.

It is entirely possible that the Obama administration sees this as a tacit request to gay-lesbian organizations to reach such a angry froth that public or congressional outrage forces him to do what he really wants anyway: repealing DOMA. We've been told over and over again by reporters how much Barack Obama analyzes each issue exhaustively before making decisions. Even if this were so, words and intentions matter little from a politician, especially one as smooth as Obama: only deeds do. This is a pretty disgusting deed.

So note the similarities between the language in the motion:
Plaintiffs also maintain that DOMA discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of their right to the equal protection of the law, see Complaint, ¶ 20, but DOMA is not subject to heightened scrutiny on that basis. As an initial matter, plaintiffs misperceive the nature of the line that Congress has drawn. DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits. To the contrary, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in federal employment and in a wide array of federal benefits programs by law, regulation, and Executive order.... Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage
...and this decision:
When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen or a man are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men's rights are protected. There were thousands of free colored people in this country before the abolition of slavery, enjoying all the essential rights of life, liberty and property the same as white citizens, yet no one at that time thought that it was any invasion of his personal status as a freeman because he was not admitted to all the privileges enjoyed by white citizens, or because he was subjected to discriminations in the enjoyment of accommodations in inns, public conveyances and places of amusement. Mere discriminations on account of race or color were not regarded as badges of slavery.
The last quote is Joseph Bradley's opinion for the Supreme Court in the 1878 Civil Rights Cases, in which the Court argued that the Fourteenth Amendment does not protect black Americans from being refused admission to public places like inns and restaurants. The subtext of Bradley's opinion is, "If you're a ex-slave, get over it. You're only discriminated against if you choose to look at the situation that way."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

from HRC's response:

"HRC also has grave concerns about the arguments that the Administration put forth in this case, arguments that simply do not reflect the experiences that LGBT people face or the contributions that they make. The Administration’s brief claims that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental. The brief further claims that DOMA is a “neutral” federal position on same-sex marriages, and permits the states to determine on their own whether to recognize same-sex marriages. The most alarming argument, grounded neither in fact nor in law, reads as follows:

[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.

“Same-sex couples and their families are not seeking subsidies,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We pay taxes equally, contribute to our communities equally, support each other equally, pay equally into Social Security, and participate equally in our democracy. Equal protection is not a handout. It is our right as citizens,” he said."

Shame on Obama. There is such a glaring absence of neutrality, it seems that when they claim that there is, they are simultaneously saying that we are stupid; or that they just don't care.

from Bryan