Obama deems Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

In what many are calling a major legal policy shift, The New York Times reports that President Obama has directed the Justice Department to stop defending a 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages against lawsuits.

Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday saying that the Justice Department will now take the position in court that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be struck down as a violation of gay couples’ rights to equal protection under the law.

Until now the Department of Justice had defended DOMA against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional.

Holder’s letter suggests Obama played a major role in the reversal.

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.

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