President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, ABC News reported, triggering a flurry of speculation that the move may be a step toward approval of same-sex marriage.
The Defense of Marriage Act has served since 1996 to enable states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships that are recognized in other states. The move was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in connection with two lawsuits challenging the Act’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
In an analysis piece on cbsnews.com, Jan Crawford writes: “Aside from the Big Deal that DOJ no longer will defend a federal law (which historically has hardly ever happened) there’s perhaps an even Bigger Deal in today’s announcement that President Obama has decided the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. In reaching that conclusion, the President and Justice Department have concluded that laws treating gays and straight people differently must get closer scrutiny from the courts–and should be upheld only if there is a very good reason for them. That’s a tougher legal standard than the courts typically have used in evaluating discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians.”
Crawford adds that the move “also puts the administration in front of the Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether gays and lesbians should get the same kind of protection that women or, even, that minorities get. If the Court ultimately agrees with the Justice Department on using a tougher standard, in practice that means pretty much any law treating gays and lesbians differently than everyone else will almost always be unconstitutional.”
Following the announcement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she will introduce a measure to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the San Jose Mercury-News reported.