U.S. Justice Dept. Appoints Gay Liaison
In a move seen a further attempt to repair relations with GLBT supporters, the Obama Administration’s Justice Department has appointed a liaison to the gay community.
The new liaison, Matt Nosanchuk, will also serve as a member of the senior staff for the Justice Department, reported an Aug. 19 article at the Washington Post.
Nosanchuk will be expected to handle as many cases in general as his fellow Justice Department staffers, in addition to his work with GLBT constituents, the article said.
The article noted that the Justice Department also has a group dedicated to GLBT issues. Headed up by Loretta king, the group is a re-formed version of a similar committee that existed under Bill Clinton, but which was dissolved by the George W. Bush administration.
While Nosanchuk’s appointment may have a practical benefit for the concerns of GLBT Americans--who have yet to see any federal law lend their community support through inclusive anti-discrimination or hate crimes legislation, but who have been subjected to two anti-gay federal laws, a military ban on openly gay troops and a federal-level exclusion from marital recognition--the symbolic meaning of the liaison is unmissable.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department submitted a legal brief in support of the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that specifies that only one man and one woman may be considered married by the federal government.
The brief was submitted to a California court where a lawsuit against DOMA has been filed by married couple Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who wed during the six-month window between the start of marriage equality in California and the revocation of marriage rights for gay and lesbian families via popular vote last November.
The brief, reportedly authored in part by a Mormon staffer, W. Scott Simpson, who was hired during the Bush administration, compared the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian families to incest and pedophilia.
Those comparisons are often made by anti-gay religious activists, who also charge that marriage equality would lead to a loss of religious freedoms for people of faith, open the door to polygamy, and be morally on par with bestiality.
Last year, as a battle raged in California over a ballot initiative that put the rights of gay and lesbian families up to a popular vote, the Mormon church issued a call to its members to support the anti-gay measure with funds and volunteerism. The deep Mormon involvement in the ultimately successful bid to repeal existing rights for the gay community led to a national outcry.
The discovery of a decade-old document prepared by the Mormon leadership outlining strategies for preventing marriage rights in California subsequently emerged in the press, leading to a further outcry in Mormon involvement in faith-based attempts to rewrite civil law.
The controversial brief was seen by some among the GLBT leadership as evidence that the Obama administration was abandoning the gay and lesbian community after Obama’s campaign rhetoric denounced anti-gay federal laws such as DOMA and the military ban on openly gay troops, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allows gays and lesbians to serve in uniform only as long as they do not disclose their true sexuality.