(CNSNews.com) – State attorneys-general who refuse to defend state laws banning same-sex marriage won’t face any objection from the nation’s top law enforcement official. In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder will applaud them.
According to Holder, “decisions at any level not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare. They must be reserved only for exceptional – truly exceptional – circumstances.’
He said that state laws banning same-sex marriage rise to that “truly exceptional” standard -- because they do not “advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.”
Holder told a gathering of state attorneys-general at the Justice Department that they are sworn, not just to win cases, “but to see that justice is done” and to “seize the opportunities that are before us.”
The legal system exists, he said, not just to settle disputes and punish wrong-doers, “but to answer the really fundamental questions about fairness and about equality that have always determined who we are and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people.”
Holder explained that those “really fundamental questions’ prompted him and President Obama to decide in early 2011 that Justice Department attorneys would no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Holder said he and Obama were “motivated by the strong belief that all measures that distinguish among people based on their sexual orientation must be subjected to a heightened standard of scrutiny…and therefore this measure (DOMA) was unconstitutional discrimination.”
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court “marked a critical step forward” when it stuck down the federal government’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where such marriages are allowed, Holder said.
“More recently, and partly in response to the Windsor decision, a number of state attorneys-general – including those in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia and just last week in Oregon, have reached similar determinations after applying heightened scrutiny to laws in their states concerning same-sex marriage.
“Now, any decisions at any level not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare. They must be reserved only for exceptional – truly exceptional – circumstances. And they must never stem merely from policy or political disagreements, hinging instead only on firm constitutional grounds.
“But in general, I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation. And we must endeavor in all of our efforts to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.”