Obama Justice Department to Stop Defending DOMA
Two months after Congress repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the LGBT community scored another political victory Wednesday, as President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Although several states have passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriages, DOMA prohibited recognition from the federal government. Section 3 of DOMA specifically prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits.
Obama has expressed opposition to DOMA in the past, urging Congress to repeal the law, but also simultaneously sent Justice Dept. lawyers into courtrooms to defend the policy. The Obama administration’s shift will leave the law on the books, but will require the replacement of two Justice Department attorneys currently defending constitutionality challenges.
Eric Holder and The Justice Department released a statement Wednesday stating, “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.”
“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,” said Holder.
Responses in Washington were predictably partisan. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner released a statement saying, “While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.”