From the New York Times editorial board.
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible — officially sanctioned discrimination against one group of Americans imposed during an election year. President Obama seems to know that, or at least he has called on Congress to repeal it. So why do his government’s lawyers continue to defend the act in court? [snip] There are two crucial questions here. The overarching one, of course, is whether it is constitutional for the federal government to deny benefits to some people who are legally married under their state’s laws. Much also depends on the standard of review. How should courts evaluate claims that a law discriminates against gay people?Read the entire editorial.
On the merits, this should be an easy call. A law focusing on a group that has been subjected to unfair discrimination, as gay people have been, is supposed to get a hard test. It is presumed invalid unless the government proves that the officials’ purpose in adopting the law advances a real and compelling interest. That sort of heightened scrutiny would challenge the administration’s weak argument for upholding the act. It would also make it more difficult to sustain other forms of anti-gay discrimination, including state laws that deny same-sex couples the right to marry. By now, such blatant discrimination should be presumed to be unconstitutional, and the Justice Department should finally say so.