The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Blog of Legal Times reports.
Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress detailing the shift in policy, stating that President Obama has determined that DOMA, which defines marriage for federal purposes as an institution between a man and a woman, does not pass constitutional muster.
Gay rights groups swiftly reacted to support the DOJ's decision. Paul Smith, a partner at Jenner & Block who works as counsel with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said of the shift:
There was only one right answer. When you examine the law and which groups need heightened protection under the equal protection clause, you realize that sexual orientation is one of those kinds of discrimination that is suspect. There really was no way for them to defend Section 3 of DOMA because the law doesn't serve any purpose other than to stigmatize persons.
The decision affects cases pending in courts around the country, and it has some experts suggesting that members of Congress will step in to defend the law if the White House will not.