This news came late last week, but it’d be a shame if it got lost in the shuffle.
The Obama administration on Friday said it would not defend the constitutionality of statutes blocking same-sex military spouses from receiving marriage benefits – including rights to visitation in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and burial together in military cemeteries.
In a letter to the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the Justice Department shared the view of plaintiffs in a lawsuit in Massachusetts that such laws – including a part of the Defense of Marriage Act, and statutes governing veterans’ benefits – are unconstitutional.
Good for the administration.
In the bigger picture, this belongs on a growing list of positive steps the administration has taken in this area over the last three years. The president and his team, though still “evolving” on marriage equality, have successfully repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, expanded federal benefits for the same-sex partners of executive-branch employees, signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, cleared the way for hospital-visitation rights for same-sex couples, lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, ordered the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans, expanded the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship, and directed U.S. agencies abroad to ensure our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians.
At the same time, Obama has also endorsed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and stopped trying to defend DOMA against federal court challenges.