- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it had withdrawn its legal support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, stating that the law is unconstitutional and therefore the administration is under no obligation to defend it.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement released Wednesday that President Obama has decided that his administration will cease its defense of DOMA’s Section 3, which defines marriage for federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman.

Even before Wednesday’s decision, social conservatives were suspicious of the Obama administration’s willingness to give its best effort, as the executive branch tasked with defending the laws Congress enacts, in lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

The act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, also says that no state is obligated to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states.

“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,” Mr. Holder said. “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.”

**FILE** President Barack Obama (Associated Press)
**FILE** President Barack Obama (Associated Press) more >

Like Hillary Rodham Clinton and most of the other leading Democrats who ran for the presidency in 2004 and 2008, Mr. Obama has said he opposes DOMA and federal and state constitutional amendments on marriage, but never specified that he favors same-sex marriage. He has said that his religion defines marriage differently and that his views on the subject are “evolving.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president was “grappling” with the issue and that it was important to “make the distinction between his personal views, which he has discussed, and the legal decision that was made today.”

Critics said the announcement makes it clear that the Obama administration has finished evolving and that it clearly favors legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The president has finally come out of the closet on gay marriage,” said Andy Blom, executive director of the American Principles Project. “After months of obfuscation and wishy-washy answers, the president has made it clear that he has no regard for the voice of the people, who have shown in election after election that they support traditional marriage.”

Thirty states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and five states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Maryland is expected to become the sixth such state soon.

The decision effectively throws the defense of DOMA into the lap of Congress, which can instruct its own attorneys to defend federal laws. Mr. Holder said he had informed members of Congress of the decision so that “members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.”

Supporters of traditional marriage immediately called on the Republican-majority House to intervene in the DOMA lawsuits.

“With this decision, the president has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Congress,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president’s neglect of duty.”

The move was a huge victory for supporters of same-sex marriage, who backed the president in his 2008 election campaign but have criticized the administration for its defense of DOMA in the face of recent lawsuits.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called it a “monumental decision” and urged Congress to “not waste another taxpayer dollar defending this patently unconstitutional law.”

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