The Obama administration on Friday
announced that it would not defend in court the Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA) as it relates to military benefits.
Last fall, a group of married gay
service members and veterans sued in federal court for spousal
benefits. The 1996 DOMA bars the military from recognizing the legal
marriages of gay troops.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a
letter to House Speaker John Boehner that the Justice Department
agreed with the plaintiffs that a section of DOMA is
The Obama administration announced
nearly a year ago that the DOJ would no longer defend DOMA. House
Republicans, led by Boehner, moved to fill the legal void, setting
aside up to $1.5
million to defend the law.
Holder reiterated on Friday that the
administration would continue to enforce the law.
“The legislative record of these
provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans' benefits to
opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex
spouses of veterans,” Holder
wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department
of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that
distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently
from Section 3 of DOMA.”
The case was filed by the
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) on behalf of the
“We are pleased that the Attorney
General has decided not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in
the military context, just as he has declined to defend it in other
contexts,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. “We are
also delighted that, for the first time, he has said that separate
definitions that apply to military veterans are also