President Barack Obama has ordered the Justice Department to drop its defense of a central part of the 1996 law that bars official federal government recognition of same-sex unions – a long-sought goal of gay-rights activists.
Attorney General Eric Holder sent letters to congressional leaders Wednesday announcing that the administration has concluded that the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that his department will no longer defend the law in a series of pending lawsuits challenging the statute.
“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the president has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny,” Holder said in a statement.
“The president has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the president’s determination.”
National Organization for Marriage chairman Maggie Gallagher had this to say in a press release:
“On the one hand this is a truly shocking extra-constitutional power grab in declaring gay people are a protected class, and it’s also a defection of duty on the part of the Pres. Obama,” said Maggie Gallagher, Chairman of NOM, “On the other hand, the Obama administration was throwing this case in court anyway. The good news is this now clears the way for the House to intervene and to get lawyers in the court room who actually want to defend the law, and not please their powerful political special interests.”