A Justice Department lawyer has been forced by a federal appeals panel in New York to explain the government’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery was put in an awkward position yesterday by two of three judges hearing arguments for the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court will not rule for months, but it made note of the government’s changed position on the 1996 law.
Delery explained that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder made the change early last year after the administration reviewed the law’s legal reasoning.
The Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex marriages when federal benefits are at stake.
Vermont is one of only six states that currently allow same-sex couples to marry.
The Defense of Marriage Act has already been struck down by several judges and a federal appeals court in Boston. It’s expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.