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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 29
DOJ will back marriage equality, Holder says
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DOJ will back marriage equality, Holder says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an ABC TV interview that his Department of Justice will argue for marriage equality if the Supreme Court accepts an appeal from Utah officials seeking to save their ban on same-sex marriage.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Utah's appeal, the Justice Department will file a brief with the court that 'will be in support of same-sex marriage,' Holder said in a rare interview, with ABC News reporter Pierre Thomas.

Holder said the brief would be 'consistent with the actions that we have taken over the past couple of years.'

In February 2011, Holder announced that DOJ would no longer defend DOMA in court challenges, because he and President Obama had concluded that the law was unconstitutional. Holder also announced earlier this year that DOJ would recognize marriages performed in Utah and other states after state bans had been struck down, and would extend all federal rights to same-sex spouses.

Holder said that analysis was 'vindicated by the Supreme Court,' in its ruling in USA v. Windsor, in which it said that married same-sex couples must receive the same federal benefits as opposite-sex spouses.

The Windsor ruling did not specifically say that Gay and Lesbian couples have an affirmative right to marry, however, and in the wake of Windsor, the legal battle shifted to lawsuits challenging state bans.

Since Windsor, state or federal courts have overturned bans on same-sex marriage in 17 states. In 13 of those states, officials appealed the lower court decisions. Utah's appeal has already been rejected by a panel of the Tenth Circuit Court, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

Holder's latest announcement is significant because it means that if the Supreme Court agrees to hear Utah's appeal - or any future appeals - DOJ will weigh in on the side of marriage equality.

Holder told ABC that he is confident the Supreme Court will agree with his analysis.

'I think a lot of these measures that ultimately will come before the court will not survive a heightened scrutiny examination,' he said.

Holder recently called the struggle for LGBT rights 'a defining civil rights challenge of our time,' adding that the LGBT community is waiting for an 'unequivocal declaration that separate is inherently unequal.'

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