Sen. Orrin Hatch and nine other senators who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit attacking the decision of a federal court to strike down DOMA as unconstitutional.
In the February decision, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said “the legislative history is replete with expressed animus toward gay men and lesbians.” More specifically, White pointed out that many congressmen called homosexuality “immoral,” “depraved,” “unnatural,” “based on perversion” and “an attack on god’s principles.”
The Justice Department, at President Barack Obama’s behest, has declined to defend the anti-gay law. But the Republican-controlled House stepped in to appeal the ruling and filed a brief with the court earlier this month. However, on June 11, 10 senators filed an amicus brief essentially threatening the Court of Appeals.
The brief contends that nothing in Supreme Court history “authorizes a court to strike down an otherwise constitutional law based on the belief that legislators individually, or the Congress as a whole, were motivated by ‘animus.'”
The senators also said in the brief they didn’t agree with White’s comparison of DOMA with historical arguments against interracial marriage.
Hatch was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when DOMA was passed. He said he received written statements from the Clinton Justice Department that the legislation was constitutional, despite the moral judgment passed by Hatch and his colleagues.
White was appointed by George W. Bush in 2002. He granted summary judgment to Karen Golinski, a court attorney asking for federal benefits for married same-sex couples. White’s ruling stated that gays and lesbians are a suspect class and that DOMA failed on a rational basis review.
In separate challenges, Massachusetts U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro also ruled that DOMA lacked a rational basis and the First Circuit affirmed his ruling. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland also has ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.