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Attorney General Eric Holder, Defender of LGBT Rights, to Step Down

Attorney General Eric Holder, Defender of LGBT Rights, to Step Down


Holder's tenure as attorney general will be marked by his dedication to civil rights and landmark LGBT cases.

Attorney General Eric Holder will step down from his position after leading the U.S. Department of Justice from the beginning of the Obama administration.

A Justice Department official confirmed to ABC News that Holder finalized his plans to leave the post on Labor Day after an hour-long meeting with President Obama. He will make a formal announcement Thursday.

"He will note he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how, under Attorney General Kennedy, the Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement," a statement from an official read. "During his tenure as Attorney General, Holder has had Attorney General Kennedy's portrait in his conference room."

Holder is expected to remain attorney general until a replacement is confirmed.

In his tenure at the Justice Department, Holder, the first African-American to hold the post of attorney general, has been integral to several key legal moves to advance LGBT equality. Holder had previously served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and deputy U.S. attorney general under Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was a civil rights attorney who testified in 1999 House Judiciary Committee to advocate for stronger hate-crimes protections.

Holder's nomination for the post was lauded by several LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, which anticipated his background in civil rights law would be beneficial for LGBT Americans. In a statement Thursday, HRC president Chad Griffin called Holder LGBT Americans' "Robert F. Kennedy, lightening the burden of every American who faces legal discrimination and social oppression. We owe him a profound debt of gratitude for his legacy of advocacy and service."

As attorney general, Holder carried out the administration's directive to no longer defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Holder also helped fulfill a campaign promise by President Obama to expand the DOJ's civil rights division. The FBI and the civil rights division of the DOJ also began enforcing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, by investigating crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the section of DOMA that restricted the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples, the department issued formal guidelines for the entire federal government on how to treat legally wed same-sex couples.

According to Politico, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is a possible contender for the position, as are U.S. solicitor general Donald Verrilli, California attorney general Kamala Harris, and Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. The U.S. Senate, which currently has a Democratic majority and would have to approve the nominee to be the next attorney general, is out of session until after the midterm election in November.

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