First Signs of DOJ stopping its defense of the indefensible?Posted: February 23, 2011
Just a short breaking news item here via the Wonk Room. I’m personally hoping this is the first sign the DOJ will stop defending indefensible policies.
Moments ago, in a sharp reversal of policy, the Obama administration announced that it believes that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages — is unconstitutional and will ask the Justice Department to stop defending the law. In a press release announcing the change, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also argues that laws regarding sexual orientation should be subject to a higher level of review:
Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.
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.
Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit. We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.