STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
President Obama's administration has put itself on both sides of the legal debate over same-sex marriage. The administration recently abandoned legal arguments in support of the Defense of Marriage Act - or DOMA. Yet, the administration says it will continue to deny health care benefits to the same sex legal spouse of a federal court employee. Here's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
NINA TOTENBERG: Until last week, the administration had similarly defended DOMA, but Walter Dellinger, who served as solicitor general in the Clinton administration, contends that throwing in the towel was the right course for the administration at this point.
WALTER DELLINGER: It was going to have to argue that there's been no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And that is an argument that neither the president nor the attorney general believe.
TOTENBERG: Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general in the Reagan administration, calls the administration's rationale for switching positions, incoherent. Though Fried says in his view DOMA is unconstitutional, the administration, he says is duty-bound to defend it as long as some reasonable, though perhaps losing argument, can be made on behalf of the law.
CHARLES FRIED H: The reasonable argument is that, in terms of tradition and in terms of the view of the majority of the people of the United States, marriage is between one man and one woman.
TOTENBERG: Shannen Coffin served in the Bush Justice Department and as counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney.
SHANNEN COFFIN: It seems incongruous to conclude that the administration will continue to enforce a statute that they have found flatly unconstitutional.
TOTENBERG: George Washington University Professor, Orin Kerr.
ORIN KERR: In some sense, the administration is in an impossible situation. They're going to get criticized no matter what they do, depending on what political interest is offended by their decision.
TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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