In today’s Denver newspaper, reporter Jessica Fender takes a too-brief look at the decision by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers late last week to join a lawsuit in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Last July, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled against DOMA, saying that it interfered with the rights of states to determine their marriage laws themselves–an argument that rests in part on the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. You might recall that Suthers’ Democratic opponent Stan Garnett harshly criticized Suthers’ then-silence on this ruling, commenting that Suthers “appears to support states’ rights on a selectively partisan basis, and only on issues that are in line with his own political ideology.”
Well, as was reported today, Suthers has actually joined the federal side in this lawsuit seeking to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, an obligative responsibility of the Obama administration–signing Colorado on in partnership with the Attorneys General of Indiana, Utah, South Carolina, and Michigan. Their argument boils down to this: “different Tenth Amendment tests apply.” At the very least, this move validates criticism that Suthers is selective and partisan with his view of “states rights.” Here’s an interesting story from the Washington Independent from last summer about the strange bedfellows (no pun intended) created by this ruling, and constitutional interpretations that might surprise you and the “Tea Party.”
Back to the matter at hand–why is Suthers really signing Colorado on to this case?
According to our knowledgeable source, Suthers’ claim to the Denver newspaper that he joined this lawsuit to defend “a Colorado constitutional provision” is false. As it’s explained to us, there are several sections of DOMA in question, and the lawsuit in Massachusetts pertains to federal benefits for same-sex couples that are already recognized by the state in question–not the section that pertains to the authority of states to accept or reject marriages from other states.
If that’s right, by supporting this suit, Colorado’s Attorney General is indeed weighing in, specifically, in favor of denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples in the states: a much less defensible position from a “state’s rights” point of view, and arguably more reflective of Suthers’ personal opposition to gay marriage than anything else. This impression is reinforced by so few attorneys general signing on. What LGBT interests are saying is the reasoning given to Ms. Fender by Suthers’ spokesman is either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading, and raises pointed questions about Suthers’ real intentions here.
We’re guessing Stan Garnett has a few, too.