In 1996, Congress passed the “Defense of Marriage Act.” This law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The law also says that no state, territory, or possession of the United States is required to treat as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. The “Defense of Marriage Act” is an act of Congress, and it is the law of the land.
Today, President Obama’s Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend this law in court. Here’s how The Washington Post describes President Obama’s shifting position on marriage:
“President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act ‘contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s)Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.'”
The President has also said that he is “grappling” with the question and that his own position on marriage is “constantly evolving.”
None of this is at all surprising, though it is disappointing. Massive social change is afoot, and it will have enormous implications for individuals and organizations that do not recognize same-sex unions as “marriage.” The ground was already moving beneath our feet, and today’s decision is shifting it even more.