Because the Justice Department traditionally defends federal laws from court challenges, it should surprise no one that the Obama administration filed a brief arguing in favor of the odious Defense of Marriage Act:HR3396:. Gay and lesbian activists were stunned and outraged anyway, though the cause is more complex than a single legal paper. They have reason to be disappointed in President Obama; only after a groundswell of anger has he taken steps to make good on his campaign pledges to advance gay rights.
Even during the campaign, Obama sent ambivalent signals on the issue. He favored equal rights for gays, but not same-sex marriage. Yet he didn't support Proposition 8, which banned such marriages. Obama the candidate walked a fine line between appeasing the gay community and reassuring heartland Americans who find same-sex marriage a shocking idea.
Nevertheless, Obama pledged to work toward the repeal of the federal marriage act, which denies gay couples such basics as filing a joint tax return. He has made encouraging noises about signing the so-called Matthew Shepard Act, which extends hate-crime laws to cover acts against gays. And he's expected to announce today the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. But although he appears willing to sign gay rights bills, he takes a curiously passive approach to ensuring that such legislation actually gets to his desk.