the supremes

Chief Justice John Roberts Oddly Skeptical That Congress Passed DOMA Because of Anti-Gay Bias

Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts answers questions from Sen. Joe Biden during his third day of confirmation hearings September 14, 2005 in Washington, D.C.. The questioning of Roberts by senators on the Judiciary Committee is expected to end today.
John Roberts can’t believe what he’s hearing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The crux of the Supreme Court’s oral argument on DOMA this morning was whether the law — which declared that the federal government would only recognize heterosexual marriages — had any rational motivation beyond discrimination against gay people. Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of Congress, claimed that it did: The government “has a particularly acute interest in uniform treatment of people across State lines.” Donald Verilli (arguing on behalf of the Obama administration) and Roberta Kaplan (arguing on behalf of the plaintiff, Edith Windsor), on the other hand, insisted that DOMA was inspired by moral objections to gays. This is a point that Chief Justice John Roberts seems to have found very hard to believe, for some reason.

Roberts first implies to Verilli that 84 senators and the president of the United States — our most respected and upstanding citizens! — could not all have acted out of animus toward gays:

Roberts later expressed the same skepticism with Kaplan:

Verilli and Kaplan, with justifiable diplomatic tact, dance around the fact that, yes, DOMA was passed because of moral repudiation of homosexuality. But as Verilli pointed out, “this statute is not called the Federal Uniform Marriage Benefits Act; it’s called the Defense of Marriage Act.” And in case the name itself isn’t a dead giveaway, the motivation behind DOMA was spelled out pretty clearly throughout the 1996 House Judiciary Committee report Verilli mentions:

In this section of the Report, the Committee briefly discusses four of the governmental interests advanced by this legislation: (1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality ….

Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality….

H.R. 3396 serves the government’s legitimate interest in protecting the traditional moral teachings reflected in heterosexual-only marriage laws.

So, yes, Chief Justice Roberts, even senators and presidents can be motivated by bigotry. Also, Santa Claus isn’t real. Grow up.

Roberts Skeptical DOMA Was About Discrimination