President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama has decided to stop defending the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in court.

While the Obama administration previously acknowledged that DOMA is discriminatory and supported its repeal, it had insisted that it was bound to defend the law in court cases seeking its repeal.

DOMA prevents couples in states that recognise same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and benefiting from other federal rights connected to marriage. The 1996 law also allows states to refuse to acknowledge gay marriages performed in other states.

The administration announced the landmark change in policy in a letter to Congress, from Attorney General Eric Holder, stating that it believes that the law is unconstitutional.

“After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”)… as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment,” said Holder.

He added that the Department of Justice “will cease defense” of the act in current and future court cases.

“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,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

He added: “The federal government has no business picking and choosing which legal marriages they want to recognise. Instead Congress should take this opportunity to wipe the stain of marriage discrimination from our laws.”

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