Government Defends Gay Marriage Ban

The U.S. government asked a judge Friday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the 8-year-old federal law that bans gay marriage.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said it was the government's first direct legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (search), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allows states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

In the lawsuit, four same-sex couples argue that the 1996 law is unconstitutional. The Justice Department's motion to dismiss argues that the couples have no constitutional standing to challenge the federal law because they are not married in any state.

"As far as the federal defendant is aware, every court to address this question — including the Supreme Court (search) and the Eleventh Circuit — has rejected federal constitutional challenges," the motion said.

The motion also said the nation's high court has "defined the right to marry consistent with traditional understandings."

The argument by the Justice Department (search) that the couples have no legal standing is a "procedural one" that is a far cry from defending whether the law violates human liberties, said Jennifer Pizer, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group.

"The fundamental right is the right to marry the person of your choice without the government getting involved there, like a matchmaker," Pizer said.

Plaintiffs attorney Ellis Rubin said he was preparing a response to the motion.