Obama drops defense of antigay marriage law

February 23, 2011

The Obama administration has an­nounced that it will no longer defend
the Defense of Marriage Act, a nearly 15-year-old law that defines
marriages as heterosexual unions.

In a letter to Congress,
Attorney General Eric Holder said President Obama has determined that
the law, widely known as DOMA, is unconstitutional when applied to
same-sex couples married legally under state law.

Holder, writing
to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), said the decision came as he
and the president reviewed the administration's role in current court
challenges from legally married same-sex couples in New York and
Connecticut.

The attorney general said Obama considered a number
of factors, including a history of discrimination against gays and a
"growing scientific consensus" that a person's sexual orientation cannot
be changed.

In his February 23 statement, Holder noted the
changing legal landscape since the law was passed, including Congress's
repeal of the military's ban on openly gay members and the Supreme
Court's declaring that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are
unconstitutional.

In a news briefing, White House press secretary
Jay Carney said the president has long considered DOMA "unnecessary and
unfair" but is still "grappling" with his views on gay marriage.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called the move "ap­palling" and urged Congress to defend DOMA.

Rea
Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
called the administration's decision "a tremendous step toward
recognizing our common humanity."  —RNS