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February 23, 2011
Obama Administration Says Law Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage Is Unconstitutional

The Obama administration has determined that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law.

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In a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Congress, Holder announces that the administration has determined that Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.

“While the Department has previously defended DOMA against legal challenges involving legally married same-sex couples, recent lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 have caused the President and the Department to conduct a new examination of the defense of this provision,” stated Holder.

“The President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.”

Under DOMA, which passed in 1996, only opposite-sex married couples qualify for federal entitlements, such as veterans' or pension benefits.

For information on DOMA visit the Domestic Partner Benefits topic page.

The entire letter can be read on the Justice Department’s website.

This article was edited 2/24/11.

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