Excitement rippled through the offices of gay organizations, human rights groups, and equality-minded politicians as soon as news broke on Wednesday that the Justice Department will not defend the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act. While DOMA is far from dead -- it's likely congressional leaders will be able to defend the law in a federal appellate court -- many reacted with jubilation. Here's what they're saying:
"Congressional leaders must not waste another taxpayer dollar defending this patently unconstitutional law. The federal government has no business picking and choosing which legal marriages they want to recognize. Instead Congress should take this opportunity to wipe the stain of marriage discrimination from our laws." -- Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese
"This is huge, folks. By definitively stating that gay men and lesbians deserve heightened scrutiny, the Obama administration is declaring that there is no government interest in perpetuating the discrimination aggrieved parties are trying to redress." -- Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart"The Obama Administration's decision is a victory for civil rights,
fairness, and equality for the LGBT community and all Americans. Since
its inception, the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act has long been
viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause of the
Constitution. Today, the President made clear that he agrees -- and I
commend him for taking this bold step forward to ensure the federal
government is no longer in the business of defending an indefensible
statute. The fight for marriage equality is far from over, and we
will continue to work towards the day when all American families are
treated with respect and viewed equally in the eyes of the law." -- House
minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)"I'm deeply disappointed.They are clearly out of sync with the public. When the voters are so overwhelmingly [supportive of DOMA] what does the president believe he knows that citizens in all these other states don't." -- former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee"Sexual orientation discrimination has no place in American law. I commend the Obama administration for upholding this American value today by concluding this statute is unconstitutional. The fact is that history is moving in a direction that ensures gay and lesbian couples are offered the same basic rights as everyone else -- the right to get married, start a family and receive the full benefits that come with it, and be counted the same as everyone else. I look forward to the day when New York and all states accept this basic principle of fairness. The time for Congress to repeal DOMA is now, and I will work hard to make sure marriage equality becomes a reality for all." -- U.S. senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) "In the 15 years since DOMA was made law, it has hurt untold numbers of gay and lesbian Americans, depriving them of the rights to enjoy the full benefits of marriage and forcing them to live as second class citizens. The President has chosen to defend the Constitution of the United States over a discriminatory and clearly unconstitutional law. That decision should be commended. A discriminatory law like DOMA has no place in a country grounded in the values of freedom and equality." -- Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way"I applaud today's decision by the Justice Department to stand on the right side of history and end its support of the disgraceful Defense of Marriage Act. We have made great strides toward equality in recent months by repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and legalizing civil unions in Illinois, and today another blow has been struck against bigotry and discrimination. It is my hope that this momentum carries us to a full dismantling of the Defense of Marriage Act and a new era of civil rights for every American." -- Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) "While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation." -- House majority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)"This is a monumental turning point in the history of the quest for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The President and the Attorney General recognized today what we have been saying in court since the day we opened our doors: Discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation should be presumed to be unconstitutional and unconstitutional laws should not be defended. It is past time for DOMA to become only an ugly part of our nation's history.
"We are proud of our part in the precedent-setting cases leading to today's announcement. Both Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas are landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases litigated by Lambda Legal that established among other things that the equal protection guarantee in the federal Constitutional applies to gay people. The Attorney General expressly relied on these cases in his letter to Congress explaining why laws discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation are suspect and that the so-called DOMA is unconstitutional.
"While the so-called DOMA is very clearly crumbling it is not yet gone. The executive branch will continue to enforce it until it is repealed by Congress or struck down by the courts. We will continue our efforts to dismantle this law, along with all other laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation. Today's action by the President and the Department of Justice hastens the day when those laws will no longer stain our nation." -- Lambda Legal director Jon Davidson "This is a profound decision by President Obama. He has put the Justice Department on record as calling into question the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and has struck a significant blow to those who mask their objection to marriage equality as a defense of the constitution. I am grateful for the bold and visionary leadership the President showed today." -- California assembly speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles)
"It's great news. Particularly after DADT repeal, this is a further expression of his
commitment to doing away with discrimination.
"I got some indication they were thinking about their position and I urged them to go ahead with it. I thought there would be no political problem. People who will be angry at the President over this won't vote for him anyway. They are deemphasizing LGBT issues and putting all the energy into the abortion issue. For example, in this budget we just had where every very conservative idea was put in, no amendment was put in saying don't implement repeal of DADT. They are, I think, soft-pedaling their opposition to LGBT rights because it's finally dawned on them first that young people think this is nonsense, but also that lots of people in America have friends and relatives who are gay and lesbian.
"[This decision] should have appeal to some of the Tea Party people with their states' rights message. In this case they're not saying there is a constitutional right to marry in general." -- Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
"This is an end run, really, around our normal constitutional processes, and we're going to be seeing a lot more of this by President Obama now that he faces a Republican-dominated Congress. He not only is refusing to defend the law, he's unilaterally declared that gay is like black, that orientation is now subjected to strict scrutiny. I actually do not recall ever an attorney general getting in front of the courts in deciding what classification is subjected to strict scrutiny under the law.
"Here's the good news. President Obama wasn't really defending this law at all, his Justice Department was trying to throw this case. I think this now opens up for the House to intervene in this case and to get somebody in court who actually wants to defend this law. In a backwards way, I think it'll end up being good for the Defense of Marriage Act." -- the National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher to Fox News
"It's a big deal. I'm just thrilled they came to this conclusion sooner rather than later. I think that any sound legal analysis will come to the same conclusion and any defense of this law is a break with precedent, with tradition, and an overreach of power by the federal government. I hope the focus returns to the state level. I would hope members not supportive of same-sex marriage would turn their advocacy to their states (though I hope they are not successful), but this should remove it as a federal issue. it has never been a federal issue, nor should it be." -- Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to TalkingPointsMemo.com"President Obama's personal politics are trumping his presidential duty. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act, a Democratic President signed it into law, and the Justice Department has a duty to defend it. It is deeply disturbing to see politics further distort the Department of Justice.
"Since its enactment, DOMA has defined marriage for federal purposes as being between a man and a woman. It further allows each state to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states where the practice is legal." -- U.S. senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)"The Obama Administration's announcement to stop defending the constitutionality of key parts of DOMA reflects where the vast majority of Americans stand today on fundamental fairness. The Justice Department was right to cite how our laws are changing. More important, the views of the American people are changing on these issues. The Supreme Court's favorable Lawrence decision in 2003 recognizing the rights of adults, including gays and lesbians, to engage in consensual relationships, as well as the recent Congressional votes to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' underscore this shift and were properly cited by the Justice Department. Servicemembers Legal Defense Networks regrets the Justice Department continues to defend the 'Don't Ask' law in court, but this can and should come to an end as soon as the Obama Administration makes a needed certification that will finally trigger the repeal of that law. This should happen sooner rather than later." -- Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network