According to the NY Times, in a letter sent by Attorney General Eric Holder to Congress today, the Obama Administration stated that it believes the 1996 so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (which bans the federal government from recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples) is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA in court.
From Attorney General Eric Holder: “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. 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.”
Here is a link to his full statement.
Laws that unequally affect a group protected by that test are presumptively unconstitutional, and may only be upheld if lawmakers purpose in enacting them serves a compelling governmental interest.
CA Senator Dianne Feinstein says she intends to sponsor repeal of the law: “As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, it is my intention to introduce legislation that will once and for all repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that. I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now; and it should be repealed.”
House Speaker John Boehner questioned the Obama administration’s decision to halt its legal defense of DOMA. “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,” he said in a statement.
In a twist of irony, Boehner has stated that the Republicans came into their majority to create jobs and yet, since taking control of the House, they have focused on repealing health care reform and other issues with no movement on actually “creating jobs.”