January 18, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Gibbs skeptical about DOMA repeal

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (Blade photo by Michael Key)

In an exchange with a Washington Blade reporter, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today said it would be “inordinately challenging” to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act given the GOP takeover of the House.

He added that although President Obama supports repeal of DOMA, the administration is obligated to represent the federal government in two lawsuits challenging the law.

“The president believes … that this is a law that should not exist and should be repealed but at the same time we have to represent the viewpoint of the federal government,” Gibbs said at a Tuesday press briefing.

Gibbs later said that he was unaware of any plans by Obama to mention DOMA or same-sex marriage during next week’s State of the Union Address.

A partial transcript of the Blade’s exchange with Gibbs follows:

Washington Blade: Last week, the Justice Department filed a brief with the First Circuit Court of Appeals defending DOMA against two lawsuits. …  Is there any consideration by the administration to dropping its defense of DOMA in court and declaring the law unconstitutional?

Robert Gibbs: Well, we can’t declare the law unconstitutional. … Obviously if you look at what was written, the president enumerates in there … our belief on this law as we balance the obligation that we have to represent the federal government; the president believes as you said that this is a law that should not exist and should be repealed but at the same time we have to represent the viewpoint of the federal government.

Blade: Do you still see legislative repeal of DOMA happening during the course of the Obama administration?

Gibbs: Well I think as the president said, given the current makeup of Congress, that is inordinately challenging.

Blade: Any regrets about not pushing more forcefully for DOMA repeal when Democrats had control of both chambers of Congress?

Gibbs: I think we are enormously proud of and grateful for the progress we have been able to make. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was an achievement of — I think will be thought of as an achievement not just for this administration but for all those involved — a monumental achievement in bringing equality and justice back. So I don’t think — obviously we didn’t get everything we wanted to get done done — but we are proud of what we did get done.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

2 Comments
  • I am really tired of Obama and his administration making excuses for their continued defense of the rotten Defense of Marriage Act. Several courts have already overturned this unjust law and Obama doesn’t have to keep defending it. I still haven’t forgiven Obama’s justice department for comparing gay marriages to pediophilia and incest. Simply put, they don’t have to keep supporting this outrageous law, and it doesn’t look like Congress will overturn it anytime in the near or distant future. It has to be overturned by the courts and Obama’s administration is just getting in the way.

  • You really need to push Gibbs. Of course the administration can’t declare the law unconstitutional, the court already did that. The administration can however exercise discretion when deciding which decisions to appeal, not defend, but appeal. This and previous administrations have decided numerous times to not appeal court decisions that found laws unconstitutional.

    I would like the administration to answer whether Obama, with his constitutional law background, thinks parts of DOMA are unconstitutional. Not thinks it’s unfair or should be repealed, but unconstitutional.

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