Mayors criticize Justice Department support for Defense of Marriage Act [Updated]
With the Obama administration facing growing discontent among gay supporters, the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco joined in voicing concern today about a new U.S. Justice Department brief supporting the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"I think it's a big mistake," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said shortly before he and his Los Angeles counterpart, Antonio Villaraigosa, kicked off the annual L.A. Pride parade in West Hollywood.
The 1996 law bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and enables states to refuse to recognize such marriages from other states. The Justice Department enraged leaders of gay rights groups Thursday by filing a lengthy defense of the law in a federal lawsuit in which its constitutional validity is challenged.
Newsom and Villaraigosa, potential rivals in next year's Democratic primary for governor, were both careful to avoid direct criticism of President Obama, who pledged during his campaign for the White House to repeal the marriage law.
"I'm concerned about some of the arguments being made by the Justice Department," Villaraigosa said.
Gay rights groups were more blunt. Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, called the administration's defense of the law unacceptable.
"Unfortunately, the malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Justice Department's brief [are] only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families," Carey said.
Representatives of neither the White House nor the Justice Department were immediately available for comment.
[Updated at 1:22 p.m.: White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the Justice Department, in submitting the brief, was following its normal practice of defending a law on the books in court.
"The President has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits," Inouye said of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.
"However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system."]
--Michael Finnegan reporting from West Hollywood
Related story: L.A. gay pride parade darkened by U.S. stance on marriage
Photo: Christina House / For The Times
Interactive map of milestones in the gay marriage battle and how state laws have changed since 2000