gay_flag_lede.jpgUS Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed (read his whole statement here) that the Obama administration believes that “the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and will no longer defend the 15-year-old law in federal court.”

The federal law, known as DOMA, provides a federal definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. It was signed by President Clinton in 1995, something perhaps worth remembering the next time you feel all nostalgic for the 90’s.

To be fair, at the time of the signing, Clinton released a statement saying “I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages and this legislation is consistent with that position. The Act confirms the right of each state to determine its own policy with respect to same gender marriage and clarifies for purposes of federal law the operative meaning of the terms “marriage” and “spouse”. “

Obama’s decision not to defend the act doesn’t mean that the law no longer exists, just that his administration won’t defend it in court, in the roughly-similar way that then-Governor Schwarzenegger and then AG Brown wouldn’t defend CA’s Proposition 8 in court. For the law to be abolished, we’d need an an act of Congress or a decision by the US Supreme Court.

So, what does this mean for California’s battle for same sex marriage and how does it impact the future of Proposition 8? We’re in consultation with legal thinkers now, and will update with more when we got it. Until, then, feel free to talk Prop 8 in the comments!

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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