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Marriage Equality

Holder's Final Vow to Supreme Court: Uphold Marriage Equality

Holder's Final Vow to Supreme Court: Uphold Marriage Equality


Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder says that he expects the Department of Justice to stand behind gay and lesbian couples seeking the freedom to marry before the Supreme Court.

There's still no word from the U.S. Supreme Court on the pending marriage litigation. But while we wait for the justices to make an announcement, the Department of Justice is poised to weigh in before the court no matter which cases -- if any -- the high court takes up.

The Supreme Court met on Monday to consider hearing one, several, or none of the seven marriage equality cases currently pending before it. However, the nine justices could also put off a decision until a later date. That's looking increasingly likely, since the Fifth Circuit might issue a controversial decision upholding marriage bans at some point in November or December.

In the meantime, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed to NBC News that the Department of Justice is likely to file a brief before the Supreme Court in support of the freedom to marry.

Holder announced last week that he would be stepping down as soon as a replacement can be appointed. Under his tenure, the Department of Justice stopped defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. Last June, the Supreme Court agreed and struck down a key section of the 1996 law.

Holder also halted deportations for non-citizens in relationships with gay and lesbian Americans.

In his interview with NBC, Holder said that his work for civil rights is one of his proudest accomplishments. "What we've done for LGBT equality, same-sex marriage, I'm very proud of that," he told Pete Williams (who, incidentally, was listed among The Advocate's recent ranking of most influential LGBT people working in mainstream media).

Later in the interview, Holder described his expectation for the DOJ's involvement with the marriage cases pending before the Supreme Court.

"I expect that the Justice Department will file a brief, and the brief will be consistent with the positions that we've taken in the past with respect to same-sex marriage," he said.

Last year, the DOJ filed a brief in opposition to DOMA, stating:

Historically, discrimination against gay and lesbian people had nothing to do with ability or performance, but rested instead on the view that they are, for example, sexual deviants, mentally ill, or immoral ... Like gender, race, or religion, sexual orientation bears no inherent relation to a person's ability to participate in or contribute to society.

Holder also expressed confidence in the ultimate success of his position on the issue. "I think the country is ready for that," he told Williams. "The polls certainly show that. The reactions to the continuing number of court cases that have found same-sex marriage to be constitutionally mandated, the polls have shown that the American people are prepared to accept that.

"I think that people who know folks who are gay, who are lesbian and who are their friends, their coworkers, they see the moral side to this" continued Holder. "It's a civil rights issue. From my perspective, it's the civil rights issue of the day. Gay and lesbian equality."

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