The appointment of a prominent gay rights advocate as an adviser to the US Justice Department has been welcomed by a openly gay Congressman.
Jared Polis was elected to the US House of Representatives last year.
He said the appointment of Matt Nosanchuk as a senior counselor to the assistant attorney general for civil rights will help keep LGBT issues on the agenda.
However, Congressman Polis told TheHill.com that success in implementing an equality agenda “is much more important than the structure behind it.”
The Justice Department has reinstituted a working group on LGBT rights abolished under the Bush administration.
The appointment of Mr Nosanchuk was characterised as “yet another effort by the Obama administration to calm the anger of the gay community over a series of perceived slights, including a controversial brief filed in June in a lawsuit over the Defence of Marriage Act,” according to Politico.com.
Last week the Obama administration angered some LGBT rights groups after it admitted that the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) is discriminatory but they will still defend it in court.
The 1996 law restricts federal recognition of marriage to only that between a man and a woman. It means gay couples are barred from a number of federal benefits, such as healthcare rights.
It also gives states the right not to recognise gay marriages performed in other states. President Barack Obama described it as “abhorrent” in his election campaign.
Court papers show the administration wishes to repeal the law. However, the same briefing reveals the Justice Department will defend the statute as it can be argued that the law is constitutional.
It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to defend laws from constitutional attack.
“The administration believes the Defence of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, because it prevents equal rights and benefits.
The department is obligated “to defend federal statutes when they are challenged in court. The Justice Department cannot pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one administration’s policy preferences,” Schmaler added.
A previous Justice Department briefing filed in June angered some gay rights campaigners, who said it compared gay marriage to incest and child marriage.
Other critics said he had essentially declared gay rights less important that black rights, on the anniversary of Loving v Virginia which struck down laws against interracial marriage in the state.
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