More than 30 national LGBT groups signed onto a letter Monday showing support for organizations and community leaders asking the federal government to investigate the slaying of Trayvon Martin after his accused killer was acquitted.
The NAACP, which openly supports marriage equality, has a petition set up at its website and is asking people to sign it to demand the Obama administration file a civil rights case against George Zimmerman. The petition went up on Saturday, the day a 6-woman jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of Martin, an African American teen who was 17 and unarmed and was returning to his family's house after walking to a nearby convenience store for tea and Skittles.
In a federal court brief filed July 1, the Department of Justice cited the Atlanta Police Department's raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, as evidence of ongoing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Department of Justice filed the brief in the ongoing legal case involving federal employee Karen Golinski. The brief argues that the federal court should not dismiss her claim that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Golinski is suing the government for equal access to health benefits for her wife in a legal battle that has spanned some two years.
The brief, filed on behalf of the Office of Personnel Management and other defendants in the case, begins by saying "Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1 U.S.C. Section 7 ('DOMA'), unconstitutionally discriminates."
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would no longer defend DOMA in court over the constitutionality of Section 3 in several cases challenging the law.
President Obama’s administration made a blockbuster announcement Feb. 23, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and the Department of Justice would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.
“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
The decision does not automatically overturn DOMA and does not mean that gay couples will now receive the federal benefits of marriage. The law still has to be repealed by Congress, which is unlikely in the near future, or struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.
Political decisions are a lot like oceanic earthquakes. First, there’s the quake, and then there’s the wave. Nobody can tell just how significant the wave is until it reaches land. Sometimes, the wave has greater impact than the earthquake; sometimes, it’s just a swell.
So it is with the decision by the Obama Department of Justice to call the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The news was a political earthquake for the LGBT community. Now, there’s the wait-and-see for how big an impact the announcement will have.
In this case, there are two waves to watch for: the legal and the political.
What a week.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The administration believes that Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between “a man and a woman” and “spouse” as an opposite sex person, is unconstitutional. The importance of this message coming from the president can’t be overstated.
Recent rulings in circuit court cases have found Section 3 to be unconstitutional, as well. There are several cases making their way through the legal system that challenge the law's muster, in particular, whether Section 3 violates the constitutional right to due process.
The Obama administration made a blockbuster announcement Wednesday, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and that DOJ would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.
It was a dramatic, unexpected, and significant move by the Obama administration and one that could trigger maneuvers by DOMA supporters to appoint an intervenor to defend the law. But beyond the eventual legal consequences of the announcement, the political impact was characterized by most LGBT leaders as historic and monumental.
“This is a monumental turning point in the history of the quest for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” said Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.