In Shift, U.S. Says Marriage Act Blocks Gay Rights

When suits challenge the 1996 law barring recognition of same-sex marriages, federal lawyers will now tell judges it should be struck down.

Comments: 125

  1. Thank you!

  2. Well isn't THIS a pleasant way for a Wednesday to go? A little bit of good news to brighten the day.

  3. Thank you, President Obama.

  4. I thought that it was up to the courts to determine a law to be unconstitutional. The executive branch enforces the laws that the legislative branch passes. The court determines the law to be valid or not. Can the executive branch simply decide to not enforce a law with which the executive branch disagrees?

  5. Bravo, Mr. President!

  6. bout time

  7. O's late to this particular party, but better late than never. Still, this isn't going to help his 2012 prospects.

  8. In Defense of Gays - it's about time

  9. God bless President Obama.

  10. Three cheers to the Obama Administration for finally doing what's right on this issue!

  11. That marriage should be reserved for procreation is a principal assertion for opponents of marriage equality. Marriage equality is likely to be argued before the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts and his wife have not procreated--like some gay couples, they have adopted children. According to opponents of marriage equality, then, should the Roberts be denied a marriage license? Should he recuse himself from this case when it reaches the court since procration is likely to be a central argument?

  12. Well, well, well. A step in the right direction. And high time, too. Nice news for a change.

  13. If I knew all it took was a Republican Congress, I would've voted for a Republican House member back in 08.

  14. Wonderful! Finally, an additional step into the 21st century. As a Massachusetts resident and blogger, I have had to engage with many who hate the idea of gay marriage. I am happy to say that it was first legal in my state, and the Commonwealth is STILL standing by the way. I certainly received some varied comments when I wrote about "Adam and Steve."

  15. It's about time.

  16. What a surprise! Obama and his henchman AG once again have decided they know better than the US public and elected representatives so have said they will not enforce the law of the land. Same old same old for Obama. He needs to boost his ratings and tie down those gay and ultra-Left voters--whatever it takes. Did either of these men take an oath of office at some point? I bet the got the OK of Big Labor before this announcemtn, though. First things first.

  17. Great that he took time out to address one of the "issues" Americans seem to care so much about: God, Guns and Gays, Family, Faith, and Flag. Now if he could address the growing disparity of wealth, the demise of the middle class, and the outlandish power corporations and the rich have grabbed for themselves, he'd be doing something truly good.

  18. Yes, Mr. President!

  19. Finally! Big news now, but old news soon. Hey, 10 or 20 years from now, kids are going to wonder what was wrong with us all these years. As kids already wonder regarding the history of discrimination against blacks, women, Irish, Chinese, and etc.

  20. It is nice to know that President Obama hasn't gone COMPLETELY to the dark side. Well done!

  21. As a straight woman who has always supported gay rights (and never understood the bigotry that led to DOMA), I feel that this is long over due... Kudos to the Obama Administration for finally recognizing the human rights of this community.

  22. Yes!! That's my President, folks, and proud of it.

  23. Hallelujah! It's about time. In fact, it's way past time, but this is a major acknowledgement of the injustice of this law in discriminating against American citizens. Bravo Obama and Holder.

  24. It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to decide what is constitutional or not. One of the responsibilities of the President is to enforce the laws of the land.

  25. Thank goodness! We the people are fortunate to have a President of the United States, President Obama, who truly believes that we live in a democracy, not in a theocracy of whatever religion, a president who understand what a democracy is all about, what the United State Constitution is about, and what the separation of church and state means for us.

  26. This is a good thing.

  27. So now President Obama does not want to enforce the law. Good for him. This is great precedent. I can't wait to see how progressives react when a Republican president refuses to enforce Obama's health care reforms.

  28. Wonderful news

  29. Congress makes law on behalf of the people. Such laws are presumed to be constitutional unless and until a court of competent jurisdiction determines otherwise. Obama and Holder unlaterally deciding not to follow the will of the people is tyrannical.

  30. It's about time! First DADT and now DOMA.

    That screeching sound that I hear are the religious fanatics pulling out their collective hair.

  31. Wonderful news!

  32. THANK YOU, President Obama! Thank you so much for doing what is morally right for our families! This is the best news I have heard in a long time.

  33. At last! A beacon of real hope for equality in the United States. Gobama!

  34. The president traded a continuation of tax cut for the "Don't ask, don't tell" law change. As much as I want to see gay rights, the cost to the country is too high given the US debt level. What new compromise will Obama make for this decision?

  35. What else can you say except, "About time."

  36. A small step. Will probably meet with a backlash for the Republican House.

  37. POTUS does not have that authority. Only SCOTUS has the power to declare legislation unconstitutional. Is this what they teach at Harvard law school?

    Time for the courts to issue a writ of mandamus forcing him to enforce the law!

  38. YES! Now for defense of labor...

  39. This is a great day! I have two absolute preconditions for me to vote for Obama's reelection: (1) repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, (2) repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Number 1 is done, number 2 is on its way. If Obama cannot or will not do these two things within the first term, he never will. Only then, will I be able to get the knife out of my back planted by Bill Clinton.

  40. a diversion by Obama, let's forget about the economy, jobs, endless wars, corruption in government, etc etc.....

  41. THANK YOU OBAMA!!!! This certainly would not have happened with a Pres McCain!!!

  42. Fantastic news, and a strong showing of leadership by our President. DOMA was bad law in 1996, and the passage of time only made it more of an embarrassment.

  43. I'm delighted. I think it should be pitched to our Tea Party "friends" as a way of saving tax dollars which have previously been wasted defending this idiotic law.

  44. What's gotten into the President?

  45. This is great news, and surprising, as well. I can't figure out why the President would take a clear position on this, while other positions are so obfuscated. Does this mean that the polls indicating that 51 percent or so of Americans can tolerate gay marriage now? Hmmm. Anyway, thank you President Obama, and AG Holter for this reasonable, educated, sane decision based on civil rights of all Americans.

  46. Indeed a bright note for justice and equality.
    Thank you Mr. President.

  47. Excellent!!!

  48. The right thing to do...thank you Mr. Holder and Mr. lets go out and beat back those fools in 2012!

  49. Thank you President Obama! What good news!

  50. is this constitutional?

  51. President Obama, You got it right in this defense of LIBERTY!

  52. TJ, the Obama administration is still enforcing the law. What they are not doing is defending it against constitutional challenges. The law can still have defenders (including congress and private groups), as the article explains, so the courts will still decide the issue at the end of the day.

  53. Finally, some decisiveness from our president.

  54. This is a violation of the US Constitution and a breach of President Obama's oath of office. This is tragic. Impeach him.

  55. There has been a lot of criticism that the Democratic party really isn't getting things done, as promised pre-election. I see many instances where that IS true. I'm very happy about this news, wonderful for all gay people.

    What about those promises, Mr. Obama, about bringing all the troops back from Iraq ... and getting out of Afghanistan? Those are very big issues too.

  56. I happen to believe that homosexuality contravenes a natural law. To me, whether or not it contravenes a federal law is almost immaterial; to each his/her own. Except, however, it may represent a spot on the slippery slope that has doomed past civilizations when they became decadent and complacent. I do not know the person who is wise enough to know.

  57. About time!

  58. Wow--I guess this makes Obama "progressive", right? LOL! Nice to see, but this is a grain of good news in a beach of misery.

  59. I just changed my Independent status to an Obama supporter! Thanks for joining the civilized world.

  60. Way to go!

  61. Excellent. Obama is now taking steps in line with liberal and libertarian values. GoBama!

  62. Nice. Now, if the President would order an end to prosecuting people for minor drug offenses, we'd really be getting somewhere...

  63. #4, TJ, Georgia:

    From the DoJ release: "Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law."

    So rest easy

  64. Obama is a such an incredible President. He is open, and compassionate, and smart, and fair, and we are so FORTUNATE to him as our leader. And to those who say it's about time, remember this comes with political risk for Obama in 2012. If you want to thank him, then remember to vote for him, and more importantly, to work on his campaign in getting others to vote for him. We need this man to continue leading our country for as long as we are permitted.

  65. Is it 12/21/2012 already?

  66. @tj - nothing said about the administration not enforcing the law. Instead the decision has been made not to defend the law in cases where its Constitutionality is challenged.

  67. Good news! I've had no doubts whatsoever that Obama will get my vote again, and I trust him to do the right thing - at least in his own pragmatic time!

  68. what a change to actually be proud of my President.

  69. it is about time...overdue for a long time.

  70. As an American defector to Canada, I'm very happy to see this, though so, so much more needs to be done to bring the US in line with the rest of the Western, civilized world.

    Hope this doesn't damage chances for Obama 2012.

  71. in georgia wrote:

    "The executive branch enforces the laws that the legislative branch passes. The court determines the law to be valid or not. Can the executive branch simply decide to not enforce a law with which the executive branch disagrees?"

    This sentence appears right in about the middle of the article:

    "Mr. Holder said that the administration will continue to enforce the act unless and until Congress repeals it, or a court delivers a “definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”

  72. i mean, when a president says "they got their law, let them try and enforce it", don't we already know that to be abrogation of the oath of office? no matter how well intentioned (and i would like to see DOMA defeated). Nevertheless, this is how banana republics operate.

  73. Yay. I understand why the president felt he had to take the stand he had up to now -- #24 puts it in one sentence -- but he can justify this decision because the growing number of states approving same-sex marriage fatally undermines the DOMA, and ultimately the DoJ's time, manpower, and budget are better deployed with regard to laws that are not doomed. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it makes sense. It also just happens to be the right thing to do -- and how often do pragmatism, ethics, and political advantage come into syzygy? (And how often do I get a chance to use that word? Priceless.)

  74. The Slo-mo Obama administration true to form is always behind the curve.

  75. One more small step towards our being a free country...

  76. It's 2011. Civilized people come in all varieties and should not be demonized. Time to become grownups about this.

  77. Oh, oh – Fox news isn't going to like this one bit. As it is now, they never referred to our president as President Obama – they just refer to him as Obama. I wonder what they're going to call him now?

  78. And what has changed between the time President Clinton (D) and the U.S. Congress passed this law and today? I was unaware that the Constitution had been modified. Perhaps the Democrats need some new friends. Fortunately, Mr. Obama is not given the authority to declare anything unconstitutional.

  79. Re TJ's comment - "I thought that it was up to the courts to determine a law to be unconstitutional. The executive branch enforces the laws that the legislative branch passes. The court determines the law to be valid or not. Can the executive branch simply decide to not enforce a law with which the executive branch disagrees?"

    The Administration is not refusing to enforce DoMA; the article noted that they will continue to enforce it. They are merely refusing to defend it in court. That's a big difference.

  80. Wonderful!! Fantastic!! It is about time. I am very happy. It couldn't have come at a better time;(Well it never should have been an issue.)

  81. Sometimes we do the most by doing nothing. The 1996 law is indefensible and should be declared unconstitutional. I am glad this has finally come to pass and that the administration has made the right decision. May they win the good fight and bring equality to all citizens regardless of their sexual preferences.

  82. People should read the article and/or Holder's letter before commenting. Obama is not saying they won't enforce DOMA, only that they will not defend it in court because it has no rational basis or Constitutional standing (since they have come to conclude that LBGT people are deserving of a strict scrutiny approach).

    Congress can still defend it, and/or interest groups (if courts rule they have standing) can intervene to defend it.

    The battle against DOMA is far from over.

  83. The President tells the DOJ not to enforce laws on the books and this is good? For those on the left, is this what you want a Republican president to do? Have you heard the phrase, "a rule of law, not of men"?

  84. Glory Hallelujah!!!! Mark February 23 as a new holiday celebrating equal opportunity for ALL Americans.

  85. Well, it's nice to know he's still around. I thought he and Hillary were hiding out in Arkansas so they wouldn't have to make a decision on what's going down in the Middle East.

  86. I am so excited to know that my 20 year marriage- 2 /12 years legally under California law- will finally be treated by my government with the same respect my parents marriage received.

    I want to say to all of the tireless activist who spearheaded this amazing victory ----
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!
    I didn't think I would live long enough to see this day.

  87. Happy to hear this!

  88. Is there any coincidence that this Pink Shirt Day (raising awareness of bullying) in Canada? I think today is Pink Shirt Day for all of us!

  89. Impeach him now.

  90. I never understood why marriage needed defending anyway. If 2 people, straight or gay are ready to commit to each other for life, let em have it. Why is it that some people it feel jeopardizes the integrity of "marriage" if gays marry? People should just be confident in who they are and what they do and not worry about what others do. This world would be a much more peaceful place.

  91. Thank you!

    I'm sick and tired of being treated as a second-class citizen in my own country. I was unable to marry my partner of 23 years until a neighboring state--Connecticut--opened its doors to same-sex marriage in late 2008. We had been together over 20 years, and Prop. 8 passed in California thanks to outside "religious" lobbyists.

    Hate is not a religion--just a tool to manipulate people for political purposes. We should be better than that.

  92. Isn't it so nice to let those discriminated against because of sexual orientation and gender identity not continue to be a part of the Justice Department's policy of abuse towards "suspect groups." This will be a first. That Obama wanted the DOJ to continue their pursuit of supporting heterosexual marriage was in itself proof that his heart it not in this fight and it for some reason has become justifiable when only a few weeks ago Obama was totally against same-sexed marriage. If you actually believe there will be any change in Obama's acceptance of Gay marriage, you likely will not get him to make a public statement against the Defense of Marriage Act.

  93. Great, now the President of the United Sates is going to take it upon himself to decide what laws of the land he will not defend. considering all the problems we are facing in the coutry and around the world, the best Obama can do is lube the squeaky wheel? I never, ever, thought I would make this statement . . . but I sure do miss Bush. This administration is a disgrace.

  94. Thank you, Mr. President. Let's hope this precedent will cause the Justice Dept to stop defending anti-gay laws and policies in other areas, most importantly gay marriage.

  95. It's a simple case of human rights long overdue. Refreshing to have a President who possess commonsense and knows the difference between what's right and what's wrong.

  96. Great! Another step toward making America inconsequential just like Europe. Unfortunately our current President does not understand or care to abide by the constitution.

  97. One nation
    Under Canada

  98. Marie (and others who have suggested that this is an illegal or unconstitutional move by the President):

    As stated in the article (reading past the headlines always helps), the Executive Branch will continue was it is legally obligated to do, to uphold and enforce the law. Where its position has changed is exclusively relegated to its only legal option on this issue - in response to challenges before courts of the law's constitutional merit. In other words, the administration will no longer send lawyers to defend the constitutional merit of law it doesn't consider to have constitutional merit. It is still up to the courts to determine the law's constitutionality, and it is still up to congress to repeal it. The executive branch is exercising its right - a right it has always had - to stop stepping in the way of that process, which has up until now been its (unfortunate) position.

  99. I thought Obama swore to uphold the law. Silly me.

  100. Of course such discrimitory laws warrant "heightened scrutiny." Glad the administration finally got around to correcting its position on that. Better late than never.

  101. This is good news. Now the Administration should stop defending Don't Ask Don't Tell, as they are still doing despite the law's repeal. Jerry Halpern

  102. Bravo, Mr.Obama! It's about time. I had begun to think that you were never going to oppose anything that the GOP championed. Now how about a few encouraging words for the embattled union members of labor unions being cruelly attacked by the legistlators of an increasing number of states?

  103. Actually no hair pulling... every one has the right to practice and believe what they choose, even if they are wrong!
    For those like myself who believe the Bible, the word of God, trumps all, well its exactly like the bible said it would be as the end times approach. People will become lovers of self rather than God. Reading the latest newspaper headlines is proving the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelations is correct.

  104. A good many of the people posting against this action have no idea of how our Constitutional system of government works. Not enforcing an unjust law is NOT declaring it null and void. Our courts do this, and ultimately this will prevail in the judicial branch as well.

    There are laws on the books against hand-held cellphone use while driving--but they are not very well enforced. There are laws about what a man and a woman can do in bed--and they are not enforced, either. There are laws against adultery--but they are seldom enforced. The police authorities have far more pressing demands than private behaviors (although driving and cellphone use--and driving and texting--provide a danger to all).

  105. I wish that those for whom this news is unwelcome would take the time to read the story carefully. The president and AG aren't declining to enforce "the law of the land," still less are they unilaterally declaring it unconstitutional. They're saying that if a lawsuit is brought against it on constitutional grounds, they won't fight the suit, fearing that to do so is to deny a particular group equal protection under the law. As for "just not enforcing the law," isn't that what GW Bush did with environmental and occupational-safety legislation?

  106. I was just hearing what's-his-name interviewed by Terry Gross, the guy who wrote a prize-winning book about Lincoln, and he said that one of the great things about Lincoln was that he thought and thought and was willing to change his mind.

    I hope this is a good sign that Obama, too, is willing to change his mind, especially on issues of social progress. -- Just when many of us had lost most of our faith in him, he surprises us. As so many others in these comments have said, "About time" and "Thank you!"

    Keep on changing, Prez.

  107. Bravo, Obama Administration! (Sorry, NYT, but the title to this article is misleading since we are not discussing a "gay law" but one enacted to discriminate against gays). It is high time that the "defense of marriage act" be overturned. It was ironically named because most heterosexual marriages don't actually need defense due to the automatic and permissive allowances that we give hetersexuals to marry and divorce as their whims carry them. The high frequency of divorce, plus the parade of marriages that, as example, so many members of Congress enjoy clearly shows that heterosexual marriage needs no defense; what it needs are rules that prohibit divorce (but that's another argument). What we do need in America is equality, equal social standing and benefits for all people who decide to enter into marriage. Now, before I even finish typing this comment, you'll see the fight that erupts over this. All the rabid uneducated or misinformed conservatives who hate anyone who is different from them will join with other fearmongers in foaming at the mouth and spewing their hate speech. This will result in yet more energy being spent on dividing this country along conservative/liberal, uneducated/educated, misinformed/informed lines. But in the end the educated will prevail, and justice will prevail as well. We may have to wait for an entire generation of the hateful and discriminatory to die off, but they will, and equality will be the standard in our nation.

  108. Another move out of the caveman policies of 2000 to 2008. Finally, a President to be proud of...even though he's not always right.

  109. WAKE UP. THis sets a terrible precedent. The President has declared himself judge and jury. Congress has passed a law and the President decides to make it null and void. The Constitution does not grant that power to the President. This is a FAR more important issue than gay marriage. The Justice department does not have the right to say they will not enforce a legal law.

  110. I'm saddened to see that a good number of the posts criticizing the President's decision are coming from my home state of Florida--what a backwards place it's become.

  111. It's about time! Regardless of one's views on the topic, a law banning marriage between two loving individuals doesn't pass the constitutional muster. A law like this harkens back to the time when it was considered criminal for two people of different races to marry.

  112. As one half of a bi-national same-sex couple I actually have a lump in my stomach and watery eyes right now. Things are changing, thank you Mr. president. You are an inspiration and a man of principals. I finally see a light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

  113. I am sure the Tea Party will be supporting this decision as the enumerated powers to federal government in Constitution do not include the power to define marriage, and thus it is reserved to the States.

    I am right about the Tea Party position on this? Right?...

  114. So, what other obscenely long-overdue policy initiatives do they have to roll out as we approach the election?

  115. thanks Barry...

  116. Err when did the President start taking the law in to his own hands. Now he is going against multiple judges whether it be regarding drilling oil. The unconstitutional Health Reform. There are words for people that have all the power its called a dictator a person that does not follow the rule of law. Is this what we have come to and does he need to be impeached?

  117. That loud bang you just heard came from Indiana, it was Mike Pence banging his head against a wall...Any more loud bangs or screams you might hear could come from, but are not limited to; Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint, FRC president Tony Perkins, etc when word reaches them about this...

    Thank you Mr. President for doing the right thing, we live in a DEMOCRACY, NOT a theoracy....

  118. Ditto to the praise of this decision - am so grateful that this is finally being done and we have a leader who can stand up for people's rights.

  119. What caused the light bulb to finally turn on? Geez, I always thought this was a no-brainer. I think Obama sees his poll numbers slipping and feels that now is the time to do something to bolster his numbers. It's not the greatest reason to support gay marriage but the end result is good.

  120. "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
    -- Theodore Parker

  121. I'm sorry, resident Obama was elected and took an oath to uphold the laws of this country. He has publiclt stated he will not enforce immigration laws, the gay marriage law, whats next? The law says we have an election every 4 years for president. Can he just decide that he does not want that? Sounds like Obama believes himself a dixtator and can either write his own laws or not submit to the laws of this country at his will. This is grounds for impeachment and treason.

  122. Hooray!

  123. That is one tortured headline. And its about time the administration proclaims it will not defend such a discriminatory piece of legislation.

  124. Does anyone still need further evidence that Obama is a far left liberal rather than moving to the center?