Justice Department will no longer defend DOMA in legal challenges
February 23rd, 2011
12:38 PM ET
4 years ago

Justice Department will no longer defend DOMA in legal challenges

Washington (CNN)– President Barack Obama has ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only between a man and woman, according to a statement Wednesday from Attorney General Eric Holder.

"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 key provisions in the law "fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional."

"Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the (Justice Department) not to defend the statute" in two pending cases in New York state, Holder said. "I fully concur with the president's determination."


Filed under: Gay rights • Uncategorized
soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. Chris Meece

    Wait a second, the president deemed the act unconstitutional? He designated himself as judge, jury, and executioner? Aren't there 3 branches to the government?

    So now that the justice department isn't defending the DOMA, does this mean any pending cases are won by forfeiture?

    February 23, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. Proud

    Our time is coming!!!!! Yay!!!

    February 23, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Dave C.

    Wow, gutsy call by the President, but supported by a fair reading of the case law (the standard for a protected class under equal protection); too bad Scalia and Thomas don't seem to care much for the equal protection clause.

    February 23, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    HAHAHAHA...eat it, bigots. Are you sure you'd like more rope? Super super sure?

    February 23, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Denise

    Like! Like! Like! Thank you Mr. President! You are guaranteed this straight married mother of two's vote again.

    February 23, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Indiana Voter

    This is why Obama is bad for America. Obama would rather endorse immoral behavior. I thought Obama said he was a Christian. I think a strong case can be made now that he is most definitely NOT a Christian by the "fruit" he is bearing. No wonder people question his Christianity. Maybe he should make prostitution legal to. After all, it is two consenting adults. This is why America is in decline.

    February 23, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. OriginalOC

    Change can be slow – but finally here. He took care of DADT in the military in the manner he wanted it done in. Let the congress vote it out as law and not just the executive branch. I think that alone says that he can spring board to wrapping this DOMA up in the same manner. Or you could say shrewd politics – but in the in end – if it gets changed – who cares. :)

    February 23, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. David H.

    About damn time. The DOMA has been a glaring example of "non-equal" protection under the law since it first reared its ugly head. Time for this bad law to be thrown on the rubbish heap of history along with the Jim Crow laws of the past...

    February 23, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Dave IL

    Even CNN understands Obama's action is flawed. They put this report under "Politics" rather than "Justice". The man thinks he's King rather than President.

    February 23, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Bill from NY

    I was honestly surprised to read this, but it is welcome news nonetheless. DOMA flies in the face of the 5th Amendment and is on its way to the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, it does not look like it will be repealed anytime soon with the current congressional setup.

    February 23, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. Chad DeArman

    Woo-hoo! Thank you Mr. President!

    February 23, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. Gary in Tampa, FL

    Thank you Mr. President.

    February 23, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    This administration has done more to destroy the fabric of our society than the last twenty presidencies put together! Time to EXERCISE OUR RIGHT TO VOTE!!!

    February 23, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  14. MJSouth

    Ahhh, the great Harry Reid takes on another important issue to the American people!!

    February 23, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. Cincinnatian

    Thank you, Mr. President, for doing what is right and helping this country move closer to liberty and justice for all.

    February 23, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  16. StClown

    How can the President unilaterally declare this? While I find myself agreeing with some gay marriage advocates that states should honor at least some sort of union on par with hetero couples (I happen to believe that the government should remove itself from officially recognizing marriage), for the Executive branch to decide to simply not enforce certain laws is not a welcome route. State Attorneys General often make these declarations on a variety of politically charged issues, and I find them equally reprehensible. Whether or not they like it, they're there to execute the law, not act as jurists. You might even say that's the Judicial branch's role.

    February 23, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. Indiana Voter

    I thought the justice department was supposed to defend the laws of the land. Are we to now assume that the Justice department will only defend certain laws that only agree with the President's views? Seems there is something illegal about what he is asking the Justice Department to do. Only Congress can change a law and until then, the Justice Department must defend the laws that are on the books.

    February 23, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. jeff

    Finally something positive out of Washington! The government needs to understand this country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. While we have not reached this ideal yet, this is a step in the right direction. Equality for all!

    February 23, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Inmyopinion

    Can you imagine if the next president would choose not to uphold a law or laws that protect blacks, gays, children, women, mentally disabled, handicap, etc... because he/she doesn't like or agree with that particular law? What danger would we live in if police officers, judges would decide which laws they would uphold based on their like or dislike of a particular law? If you don't like a law then you work on changing that law but you don't decide to not uphold it. Based on Obama's action, I fear local governments, judges, police officers might follow in his footsteps and feel free to not uphold laws they dislike, disagree with. What kind of danger are we facing?

    February 23, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. dave

    It's about time.

    February 23, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. EddyL

    It's about time!

    February 23, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Guest

    YEAH!!! Finally equality.

    February 23, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. Linda Green

    This administration has done more to tear down the moral fabric of our society than the last twenty presidencies combined. It is time that "we the people" EXERCISE OUR RIGHT TO VOTE!!!

    February 23, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. MJ

    What a minute .. This law was passed by the House and Senate during Clinton's Administration. How does Obama have the right to say "I don't like it and were not going to enforce it anymore". Talk about dictatorship!! What else does he have up his sleeve? This is so wrong.

    February 23, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. Jay S.

    I'm no fan of DOMA, and I can't say I'm unhappy to learn that the DOJ will no longer be defending it. But this decision is still a pretty dramatic move for the President. The standard practice for the DOJ is to defend any and all federal laws, even those of questionable constitutionality, unless (1) the laws impose on the executive itself, or (2) the law is so flagrantly unconstitutional that no reasonable argument could be made in its defense. Whatever might be said about the legal and normative shortcomings of DOMA, I don't think it meets that standard. Anyway, just a thought.

    February 23, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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