UPDATE: Melissa McEwan at Shakesville breaks down the significance of this moment in the comments on her post about the president’s decision:
No, it’s not a repeal of DOMA. No one’s under the misapprehension that it is.
But it’s a promise by the administration not to vociferously mount a defense of a grave inequity that they found constitutional yesterday.
That is incredibly meaningful in legal terms. But, even more importantly, it cannot be overstated how important this is in terms of the national conversation on marriage equality.
This president just took a place on the side of marriage equality.
He is the first United States president to do that. Ever.
UPDATE: From the Human Rights Campaign:
“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 HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the President has stated previously, DOMA unfairly discriminates against Americans and we applaud him for fulfilling his oath to defend critical constitutional principles.”
UPDATE: As Jill at Feministe says in response to the news: “Bam. That’s why electing Democrats matters.”
Which is exactly how I felt after hearing that Obama had appointed Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court (and after Bush appointed Roberts).
UPDATE: A statement of the Attorney General of the USA:
After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination. […]
Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional. 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. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.
UPDATE: From The WaPo:
The source believes DOJ had come to the conclusion that heightened scrutiny would apply, and that these cases cannot be defended in court. A 530d letter has been sent to Congress informing it that, if it wants to defend the statute, it is free to do so. A case is pending now that has a filing deadline of March 11.
This is huge, folks. By definitively stating that gay men and lesbians deserve heightened scrutiny, the Obama administration is declaring that there is no government interest in perpetuating the discrimination aggrieved parties are trying to redress.
I agree. This is HUGE.
[Tweet from @nationaljournal published minutes ago: “BREAKING: Obama has decided that DOMA is unconstitutional and has asked his DOJ to stop defending it in court.”] Here’s a link to NJ’s short post about it on their site. More info (and celebration and outrage) to come, I am sure.