Gov't drops defense of anti-gay marriage law

CA recognizes same-sex marriages and has a domestic partnership law
February 23, 2011 11:38:10 PM PST
Gay rights groups are celebrating. In a major policy reversal on same-sex marriage Wednesday, President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the federal law which bans recognition of same-sex marriages. In California, the court fight continues over Prop 8 which bans same-sex marriage. Opponents are asking that those marriages be allowed to resume.

These two developments appear to be coordinated. Opponents of Prop 8 cited the Obama administration decision even before ABC7 got the announcement from the Justice Department. Either way, it has been a big day for same-sex marriage supporters.

Shane Mayer was at his computer Wednesday morning when the news broke.

"I saw it on Twitter and I messaged him and I said, 'This is so exciting. Did you hear?'" he said.

Mayer and his partner want to get married but can't because of the Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban. Their excitement was over a letter that Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner. ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson calls it complicated and a little convoluted, but boiling it down to a central point.

"The official position of the Obama administration, that sexual orientation is a constitutionally protected class and same-sex marriage is a constitutional right," said Johnson.

The legal team opposing California's ban on same-sex marriage cited the administration's decision in a motion that would lift the ban in California while the case is working its way through the courts.

"And we simply believe that it is time to allow gay and lesbian citizens of California the same rights that everyone else has," said plaintiff attorney David Boies.

"There is no reason to nullify the election results by allowing gay marriage while this case is still pending," said ProtectMarriage.com attorney Andy Pugno

The head of Catholics for a Common Cause, Bill May, says Wednesday's developments run counter to the wishes of the voters.

"The Obama administration is really splitting with the bipartisan majority in Congress and the people in 90 percent of the states," said May.

Mayer believes the ground on that is shifting, and he and his partner have a particular interest in getting married as soon as possible.

"My father has told my fiance how excited he is for our wedding, but my father has cancer and he spent the last summer in Houston at the MD Anderson Clinic dealing with it," said Mayer.

Mayer says there are real world consequences for delaying.

"In the meantime we should have our rights back," he said.

ABC7 political analyst Professor Bruce Cain says the decision by the Obama administration will do a couple of things. It will certainly please the president's base, but perhaps not as much as it will energize social conservatives in the next election.


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