BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on Wednesday celebrated the Obama administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of gay marriage, calling it an “important victory” for same-sex couples.
“The Defense of Marriage Act has now been declared discriminatory and unconstitutional by a federal judge here in Massachusetts, based upon our lawsuit, the Department of Justice and the president of the United States,” she said.
A federal judge in Boston ruled in two lawsuits last summer that DOMA was unconstitutional because it denied married gay couples the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples.
“If this is the end of our lawsuit, it means that we have been successful in saying that if you are married here in Massachusetts, you will be treated as married for all intents and purposes for your Social Security, your income tax, your military benefits,” Coakley said.
Though she praised the decision, Coakley says a letter by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday leaves open the possibility that Congress could continue to defend the law in court.
Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute said his group is asking House Speaker John Boehner to have Congress step in and defend the law.
Mary Bonato, the civil rights project director at the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said the decision is a recognition of what her group’s been saying for years.
“And that is that laws that distinguish between people based on whether they’re gay or not — based on their sexual orientation — are suspicious, and much more likely to reflect prejudice against gay people than good public policy,” she said.
President Obama has called for repeal of DOMA.
– Here’s U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter to Congress (on Scribd):
With reporting from the WBUR Newsroom and the Associated Press.