BREAKING: Obama administration will no longer defend key provision of DOMA

President Barack Obama

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a statement saying the Obama admistration will no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act because it believes the provision is unconstitutional.

Section 3, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes, was declared unconstitutional by a U.S. district judge last year, but the Justice Department appealed the decision. Holder’s statement means the Justice Department will no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA.

DOMA, passed in 1996, denies married same-sex couples more than 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law. These include Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among many others.

“This is a monumental decision for the thousands of same-sex couples and their families who want nothing more than the same rights and dignity afforded to other married couples,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement Wednesday. “As the President has stated previously, DOMA unfairly discriminates against Americans and we applaud him for fulfilling his oath to defend critical constitutional principles.”

HRC goes on to note that under federal law, the Obama administration must report its decision to Congress, where anti-gay lawmakers are likely to take up the defense of DOMA.

“Congressional leaders must not waste another taxpayer dollar defending this patently unconstitutional law,” Solmonese said. “The federal government has no business picking and choosing which legal marriages they want to recognize. Instead Congress should take this opportunity to wipe the stain of marriage discrimination from our laws.”

Today’s decision doesn’t mean Section 3 of DOMA has been repealed or will no longer be enforced. That would take a court ruling or an act of Congress. However, the announcement is consistent with Obama’s statements during his campaign, when he said he favored a full repeal of DOMA: “I support the full and unqualified repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Obama said in 2007. “While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether.”

The full text of Holder’s statement is after the jump.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Supreme Court allows DADT to remain in effect pending government’s appeal

As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to prevent the military from enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” during the government’s appeal of a ruling that declared the policy unconstitutional.

Here’s a statement in response to the high court’s ruling from Servicemembers United:

“It is unfortunate that an unconstitutional law that is causing substantial harm to military readiness and to tens of thousands of troops is allowed to remain in effect for even one more day,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and the only named veteran plaintiff in the case. “This just underscores the need to continue to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow the defense authorization bill to come back up and take its first procedural step before the Senate’s Thanksgiving recess. Servicemembers United, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans have all strongly and consistently called on Senator Reid to do just that. It is now time for other organizations, as well as the White House, to publicly do the same.”

Read more at Politico.

—  John Wright

DOJ responds to DADT ruling; Gibbs says filing doesn’t diminish Obama’s commitment to repeal

Lawyers with the Justice Department on Thursday night, Sept. 23,  asked U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips not to grant an immediate injunction ordering that the military stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law/policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The filing came 14 days after Judge Phillips ruled that DADT is unconstitutional and should be immediately ended. ( You can read ABC News’ report here.)

The filing Thursday by DOJ lawyers asked for a “reasonable” amount of time to consider an injunction.

The fact that the government continues to defend the policy, despite President Barack Obama’s clearly and repeatedly stated opposition to DADT and his pledge to end it left Log Cabin Republicans, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit in question, more than a little angry.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans

LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper issued this statement Friday morning, Sept. 24: “We are deeply disappointed with the administration’s decision. Yet again, the Obama administration has failed to live up to its campaign promise to repeal this unconstitutional law for the servicemembers of this country.”

In the same press release that included Cooper’s statement, Dan Woods, the attorney with White and Case who is representing Log Cabin in the trial, had this to say: “The Justice Department’s objections fail to recognize the implications of the government’s defeat at trial. It is as if the South announced that it won the Civil War. The objections also fail to mention that the court has previously denied the government’s requests for a stay on three prior occasions and nothing has changed to suggest that a stay is now appropriate; if anything, the Senate vote this week shows that the court was correct in denying the prior requests for a stay. But what is most troubling is that the government’s request for a stay ignores the harm that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ causes to current and potential members of our Armed Forces. That is the saddest, most disappointing and, in light of the president’s position, most hypocritical part of the objections.”

The Senate vote to which Woods referred was the one on Tuesday, Sept. 21, in which every Senate Republican and three Senate Democrats voted against the motion for cloture, which would have ended a Republican filibuster and forced a final vote on the Department of Defense funding bill that included an amendment repealing DADT. That bill had already passed the House. One of the Democrats who voted against the motion was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had made the motion. He voted against it in a procedural maneuver so that he would be able to bring it up again later.

Moderate Republicans in the Senate who might otherwise have voted with the Democrats on that motion voted against it because Reid had also included an amendment dealing with immigration — the Dream Act — and had refused to allow Republicans to offer any amendments to the DOD spending measure.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday defended the DOJ’s filing, saying that it was the department’s job to defend “acts of Congress” when they are challenged. But Gates insisted the filing “in no way diminished the president’s commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT — indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Gates added: “The president was disappointed this week when a majority of the Senate was willing to proceed with the National Defense Authorization Act, but political posturing created a 60 vote threshold. The president spoke out against DADT in his first State of the Union address, and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both testified in support of repeal. And the Department of Defense continues to work on a plan on how to implement repeal. This president, along with his administration, will continue to work will continue to work with the Senate leadership to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT as outlined in the NDAA this fall.”

UPDATE: Also Friday, a group of 69 progressive members of the House sent a letter to Obama asking that him not to appeal Phillips’ decision. Thursday’s filing was not technically an appeal, but experts say it was a strong indication that the DOJ does plan to appeal. For more on the letter, go here.

—  admin