Holder: U.S. will not defend DOMA

Feb. 17, 2012 at 7:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has notified Congress the Justice Department will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in a lawsuit by military personnel.

In a letter sent Friday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Holder essentially reiterated what he said in February 2011, when he announced the Obama administration had concluded the law -- which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman -- is unconstitutional, ABC News reported. The letter to Boehner refers to a legal challenge to DOMA by current and former active duty U.S. military personnel.

Holder's letter indicated the plaintiffs are asking that same-sex couples be provided the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples, including "medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and the right to be buried together in military cemeteries."

"The legislative record of (DOMA) 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."

Holder said if Congress chooses to defend the law, it will have a "full and fair opportunity" to do so.

The House of Representatives has retained counsel to defend DOMA in other court challenges to its constitutionality.

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