Former U.S. Attorneys General Edwin Meese III and John Ashcroft criticized the Obama administration and Eric Holder on Monday for its decision to stop defending the definition of marriage outlined by the Defense of Marriage Act in court, calling the administration’s decision “ill-advised” and “unprecedented.”
“The decision to change course and challenge DOMA’s constitutionality should be viewed as an extreme and unprecedented deviation from the historical norm and, as such, the persuasive weight afforded to DOJ’s brief should be less than in the typical case,” the two former top Justice officials said in amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) briefs filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, according to a report in Metro Weekly.
Ashcroft served as Attorney General under George W. Bush and Meese served under Ronald Reagan.
Last week, the Bi-Partisan Legal Advisory Group urged the court to reverse its decision marking Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The two former Attorneys General submitted their letter in solidarity with BLAG.
Karen Golinski, a federal lawyer in California, was denied spousal benefits in 2008. That same year she filed a compliant under the Ninth Circuit’s Employment Dispute Resolution Plan that the denial of coverage for her female spouse constituted discrimination. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ordered that Golinski be allowed to enroll her wife in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health plan. The Office of Personnel Management ignored the court’s ruling and Golinski filed suit against the federal government.
In February 2011, the Justice Department distanced itself from the controversial piece of legislation with Holder’s announcement that the department would not longer defend provisions of the law that defined marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman. Holder told Speaker of the House John Boehner that Justice Department attorneys will be instructed not to defend provisions under section 3 of DOMA. Boehner and other Republicans then tapped BLAG to continue the challenge to Golinski’s court appeal.
On February 22 this year U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled that Section 3 of DOMA violated Golinski’s equal protection rights. In a separate case, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in May.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently reviewing White’s decision.