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Obama Directive Orders Dept. of Justice to Stop Defending DOMA

Obama Directive Orders Dept. of Justice to Stop Defending DOMA

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will not defend section three of the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act in federal court after a directive from President Barack Obama. Two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenge section three of the law passed in 1996. U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said in a statement that the decision to stop defending DOMA in these and other cases hinged on Obama's recent decision that the law is unconstitutional.

Watch the White House briefing live below. 

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will not defend section three of the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act in federal court after a directive from President Barack Obama.

The act defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman,

Two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenge section three of the law passed in 1996. U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said in a statement that the decision to stop defending DOMA in these and other cases hinged on Obama's recent decision that the law is unconstitutional.

"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," 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."

Holder cited several changes since the law was passed, including the Supreme Court ruling that criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) and Congress's recent repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He also cited DOMA being considered unconstitutional by several lower courts.

Holder added that he had informed members of Congress of the decision, so that those members who wish to individually defend the law may do so. He also said the law, while deemed unconstitutional by himself and the president, will still be considered in effect until Congress repeals it.

Read the Attorney General's full statement on the following page.

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Michelle Garcia