U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state attorneys general Tuesday that they are not obligated to defend state same-sex marriage bans, which could have far-reaching implications.
At a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Holder encouraged leading attorneys to follow the Obama administration’s example not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down in the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.
“In general, I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation,” Holder said in his speech. “Our ideals are continually advanced as our justice systems — and our union — are strengthened.”
Holder pointed to state attorneys general in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia and Oregon who declined to defend their state’s gay marriage bans in court, but said refusing to defend state laws should be rare and not based on political differences.
In May 2012, North Carolina passed a constitutional gay marriage ban, which N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has said he will defend despite personal opposition.