American Foundation for Equal Rights

Obama Administration to Drop Defense of DOMA. Read AFER’s statement.

For Immediate Release

Press Contacts
Amanda Crumley / 213-785-5368
Brandon Hersh / 202-412-9766

Los Angeles – The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) praised today’s decision by President Obama and the Justice Department to abandon its defense of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and recognize the legality of gay and lesbian marriages.

Today’s decision by the federal government underscores the unconstitutionality of gay marriage bans in states across the country, and further supports the August 2010 ruling by the US District Court in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that California’s ban on marriages for gay and lesbian couples is unconstitutional.

“This is a huge victory for gay and lesbian couples and removes any doubt that the freedom to marry is a constitutional right for all Americans,” said Chad Griffin, AFER Board President. “The U.S. District Court has already ruled marriage to be a right for all Californians, and now the federal government has sent a clear message that it too sees the freedom to marry as a fundamental constitutional right.”

The decision by the Justice Department echoes the decision made by fmr. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and fmr. Attorney General Jerry Brown when they too refused to defend California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. Just as the federal government is now acknowledging that DOMA is unconstitutional, Schwarzenegger and Brown recognized that California’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and violated the rights of gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry.

Also today, AFER and its legal team — led by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies — filed a motion with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asking that the Court immediately lift an order preventing gay and lesbian couples from marrying in California. That order, issued in August 2010, stayed the injunction issued by the U.S. District Court that barred further enforcement of Proposition 8.

This comes on the heels of a request last Thursday by AFER to the California Supreme Court to expedite the hearing of questions relating to the standing of Proponents to maintain an appeal in federal court. AFER’s attorneys urged the California Supreme Court to hear arguments in May, rather than September.

“While the courts determine procedural questions, gay and lesbian families will continue to suffer,” said Griffin. “Life is not eternal—sometimes it is tragically short—and courts should not act as if it were otherwise. Today we are requesting the California Supreme Court to quickly resolve the issue of standing, and the Ninth Circuit to allow marriages to resume.”

About the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the sole sponsor of the Perry case. After bringing together Theodore B. Olson and David Boies to lead its legal team, AFER successfully advanced the Perry case through federal district court and is now leading it through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before the case is brought to the United States Supreme Court. The Foundation is committed to achieving full federal marriage equality.