The Obama Administration has settled a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture by a group of Native Americans who were discriminated against, being denied agricultural loans when their European American neighbors were given easy access.
That’s great news, but it brings up a question: Why won’t the Obama Administration settle other justified lawsuits in the same way?
The federal government has been sued for its enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, and for the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which directs the Department of Defense to fire people who are doing their jobs well, because they have engaged in gay or lesbian sexual activity. In both cases, Barack Obama has directed the Department of Justice to refuse to accept judgments that the government’s discrimination is unconstitutional. Obama has insisted on appealing those cases, to preserve discrimination against homosexual Americans.
Obama’s defenders say that he is only fulfilling his legal obligation as President to object to all lawsuits that have been brought against the government, even if he thinks that those lawsuits are justified. The fact is, though, that the President is under no such legal obligation. He can direct the Department of Justice to settle a case in a way that’s beneficial to a plaintiff, or simply refrain from filing an appeal in a case in which the government has lost.
Barack Obama was happy to accommodate the lawsuit of Native Americans against the Department of Agriculture. He won’t do the same for gays and lesbians, though.
It has nothing to do with consistency, or legal obligations, or a wonkish love for process. Obama is simply too cowardly to stick his neck out for equality.