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Obama Administration Statements on the Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling

Administration officials react to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on same sex marriage.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement released shortly after the Court’s ruling was announced, President Obama applauded the decision.

This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. 

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better. 

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

A number of Cabinet Secretaries and senior Administration officials also released statements hailing the Court’s decision.

Secretary of State John Kerry

The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for LGBT Americans. 

As a Senator, I voted against DOMA in 1996 and argued that it was unconstitutional.  As Secretary of State, I look forward to the work that now can and must be done to adjust rules and regulations that affect the many married Americans who were hurt by this law.  While I am incredibly proud of the job that the State Department has done in ensuring equal benefits for our employees, there’s more to be done.  To fully implement the requirements and implications of the Court’s decision, we will work with the Department of Justice and other agencies to review all relevant federal statutes as well as the benefits administered by this agency.  We will work to swiftly administer these changes to ensure that every employee and their spouse have access to their due benefits regardless of sexual orientation both at home and abroad.

I am proud of the progress we’re making in this arena, and particularly proud that I work for a President who has helped to lead the way forward.  From Stonewall to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ despite setbacks along the way, the arc of our history on this issue has bent towards inclusion and equality, perhaps never more so than today.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court's decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act.  The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court's decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies.  The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses -- regardless of sexual orientation -- as soon as possible.  That is now the law and it is the right thing to do.

Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment.  All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so.  Today's ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly.

Attorney General Eric Holder

Today’s historic decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, is an enormous triumph for equal protection under the law for all Americans.  The Court’s ruling gives real meaning to the Constitution’s promise of equal protection to all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation.  This decision impacts a broad array of federal laws.  At the President’s direction, the Department of Justice will work expeditiously with other Executive Branch agencies to implement the Court’s decision.  Despite this momentous victory, our nation’s journey – towards equality, opportunity, and justice for everyone in this country – is far from over.  Important, life-changing work remains before us.  And, as we move forward in a manner consistent with the Court’s ruling, the Department of Justice is committed to continuing this work, and using every tool and legal authority available to us to combat discrimination and to safeguard the rights of all Americans.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius

Today’s Supreme Court decision finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a victory for equality, which is a core belief of this administration.

It is also a victory for families, especially those children whose parents’ legal same sex marriages can now be recognized under federal law.

As a result of today’s ruling, the federal government is no longer forced to discriminate against legally married same sex couples.

The Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA reaffirms the core belief that we are all created equal and must be treated as equal.

The Department of Health and Human Services will work with the Department of Justice to review all relevant federal statutes and ensure this decision is implemented swiftly and smoothly. 

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits.  I am pleased the Court agreed with the Administration’s position that DOMA’s restrictions violate the Constitution. Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.

Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Elaine Kaplan

Today’s historic decision by the Supreme Court that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional is a much welcome development in the continuing quest to ensure equal treatment under the law to all Americans.  For the federal government as an employer, it will impact benefits for our married gay and lesbian employees, annuitants, and their families. 

In the coming days, OPM will be working closely with the Department of Justice and other agencies to provide additional guidance for federal human resources professionals, benefits officers, and our employees and annuitants.   While we recognize that our married gay and lesbian employees have already waited too long for this day, we ask for their continued patience as we take the steps necessary to review the Supreme Court’s decision and implement it.   As soon as we have updates to share, they will be posted on our website. 

Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.