[UPDATED] Federal Government Will No Longer Defend Defense of Marriage Act

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UPDATE, FEB. 23, 4:18 P.M.: The couple who filed the first marriage-equality case in California and later became petitioners to overturn Proposition 8, Diane Olson and Robin Tyler, said today's decision by the Obama administration to stop defending the federal government's anti-gay-marriage law is "a huge win."

"I wept when I heard the news," Tyler writes in an e-mail to the Weekly. "I now am beginning to believe that within my lifetime, Diane and I will gain federal recognition. I believe that the president's decision was due to activism on the streets and advocacy in the courts and the political system."

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Courtesy of Robin Tyler and Diane Olson
California's first couple
"We are ecstatic that the president has declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional," Olson adds. "As a married couple, the fact that we are being denied federal benefits and that this administration finally has said that denying federal benefits is not 'equality under the law' is a huge step forward."

The Lost Hills couple, who were the first and only pair to marry in Los Angeles County on June 16, 2008, have alternated "between laughing and crying" as marriage equality has been legitimized and outlawed during the decades they have been battling the issue.

"We truly believe this is the beginning of the end of accepting that kind of bigotry," their joint message to the Weekly ends. "We must not only tell the next gay generation that it gets better, but we must also make it better. Today was a huge win."

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UPDATE, FEB. 23, 3:39 P.M.: Far be it from this corner to suggest some collusion was going on, but moments after the Obama administration's announcement against defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), attorneys for same-sex couples in California asked a federal appeals court to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Those attorneys also claim the DOMA decision hurts the prospects of Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, from prevailing in court.

Ironically, one of those attorneys is Ted Olson, who was then-President George W. Bush's solicitor general. In February 2004, Bush called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage because, he argued, DOMA was vulnerable to attack from "activist judges."

Arguing on behalf of same-sex couples, Olson says the Prop. 8 appeal is taking much longer than expected, subjecting California's gays and lesbians to daily injustice.

"They and their most cherished relationships have been formally branded by their state as different, inferior and unequal," said Olson. "That discrimination inflicts countless injuries every single day. It is a badge of inferiority that cannot be hidden or suspended while this litigation goes forward."

The California Supreme Court agreed last week to rule on whether Prop. 8 proponents have standing to appeal a federal judge's ruling against the voter initiative. Attorneys for same-sex couples estimate that could add a year to the appeals process.

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ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 23, 9:58 A.M.: The U.S. government will stop defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, the Justice Department announced today.

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama concluded his administration can no longer defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, the Washington Post reports.

Until now, the Justice Department had been defending the Defense of Marriage Act signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Obama concluded Section 3 of the law--the part that defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman--is unconstitutional, something a federal district court judge also concluded in July 2010. That decision was appealed.


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