President Barack Obama has ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and woman, according to a statement Wednesday from Attorney General Eric Holder.
“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.
The key provision in the law “fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.”
“Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the (Justice Department) not to defend the statute” in two pending cases in New York, Holder said. “I fully concur with the president’s determination.”
Obama has previously expressed his personal opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act but had never stated an opinion relating to its constitutionality.
An imperfect solution, one which leaves same-sex marriages vulnerable to the decisions of the next president. But it is one more milestone in the long march to equality.