WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said Wednesday that it would not defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The Justice Department had previously defended the law, but said it had determined in a pair of cases in the federal appeals court in New York that it was no longer constitutional.
In a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to House Speaker John Boehner, the administration said it would continue to enforce the law until the court rules on the law definitively.
Holder said lawyers in the Justice Department determined that based on a history of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, any law that treats same-sex marriage differently should be subject to a higher standard of judicial review -- a legal point likely to be contested by conservatives.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president doesn't believe the law is constitutional though his own personal view on gay marriage is still evolving.
"He's grappling with the issue," Carney said Wednesday. "But I want to make a distinction between his personal views" and the legal decision not to defend the law.
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