Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA

In a watershed moment for the Department of Justice, Eric Holder,
U.S. Attorney General, sent a letter to Congress stating that by
President Obama’s directive the DOJ will no longer defend Section
3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 restricts the
definition of marriage to mean “only a legal union between one
man and one woman as husband and wife.”

There are two cases currently pending in which the DOJ will no
longer defend Section 3: Windsor v. US (from New York) and Pedersen
v. OPM (from Connecticut). In both cases, legally married same-sex
couples are suing the federal government for denying them the
benefits given to married opposite-sex couples.

What does this mean for married same-sex couples and their
families? In practice, at least for right now, not much. DOMA
continues to stand and married same-sex couples do not yet have
access to numerous federal benefits and protections that are
afforded opposite-sex married couples. However, the most important
thing the DOJ decision accomplishes is that it establishes sexual
orientation as a “suspect classification” which means that all
distinctions between gay and straight people would need to be
justified as “necessary” to achieve a “compelling state
interest.” This is an incredibly high standard to meet which
makes it much more difficult to enforce discriminatory laws like

We applaud the President, Attorney General Holder, and the
Department of Justice for their courage and commitment to equality.