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NOTE: The announcement from the Attorney General's Office on DOMA is HERE.
President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognizes only opposite sex marriages for the purposes of federal law. The President has also stated clearly that he believes Section 3 is unconstitutional because the law does not pass heightened scrutiny. The Administration has previously defended DOMA under as rationally related to some legitimate government interest. As we have discussed before, that is the easiest standard to beat. But today, the President has stated that he does not believe such "rational basis review" is appropriate for laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Instead, DOMA merits some higher level of scrutiny, a hurdle DOMA cannot pass.
This is a welcome (and, admittedly, somewhat surprising) development. The President has long stated his opposition to DOMA, but this marks the first time that the Administration has come out in favor of heightened scrutiny and the first time the Administration has stated that it will decline to defend the statute in court. The President deserves our wholehearted support and gratitude. This is an important first step in what has already been (and will continue to be) a long legal drama.
But, does this mark the end of DOMA? Not exactly.
I would like to take this opportunity to briefly state how and why this happened seemingly out of the blue and what this development means for DOMA going forward. Please use the comments for any additional questions or comments you may have.
Questions and answers, AFTER THE JUMP...