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 unconstitutional.

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 plaintiffs.

“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 unconstitutional.”