The Justice Department’s liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community, Matt Nosanchuk, said Thursday the LGBT perspective has a “seat at the table” in the Obama administration.
Nosanchuk, who works as a senior adviser to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, was part of a panel that spoke at the National Press Club on Thursday about the Obama administration’s work on LGBT issues.
The Justice Department has taken some heat from some in the LGBT community for defending the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy even though the Obama administration opposes them.
Nosanchuk indicated he has had input into several Justice Department briefs defending the two to make sure they didn’t use offensive language or arguments.
“I wasn’t there when the first [DOMA] brief was filed,” said Nosanchuk, who joined DOJ last August. “I was there when the second one was filed. I think we would all kind of agree that the language in the first brief was not … necessarily the best language. But it sort of speaks for itself because the language and the approach changed.”
Nosanchuk said that in the second DOMA brief, the Obama administration abandoned some of the more inflammatory arguments, such as citing studies that claimed gay parents were not as effective.
Still, Nosanchuk said the Justice Department has to defend all of the laws on the books, even if the administration disagrees with particular laws.
“The Department of Justice has a historic and traditional obligation to defend the laws that Congress passes,” Nosanchuk said. “We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing with laws to enforce.”
Nosanchuk said that the previous administration chose not to enforce some laws, specifically within the Civil Rights Division, and that was not a practice the Obama administration wanted to continue.
The Civil Rights Division, Nosanchuk added, has worked closely with the Civil Division to defend the Matthew Shepard Hates Crimes Act in a lawsuit brought by the Thomas More Law Center.
Speaking for himself, Nosanchuk said that cultural wedge issues like battles over gay rights “tend to fill a vacuum” in times when there were fewer pocketbook or hot-button issues in a campaign.
Within the Justice Department, the president of DOJ Pride, an organization for LGBT employees, said in October there had been a “big leap forward” on such issues in recent years.
Later this month, the Justice Department will host a June Pride Month event in the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department building. The June 21st event will feature Perez; Attorney General Eric Holder; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D- Minn.); Sharon Lubinski, the U.S. Marshal in Minnesota; and Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.