The Obama administration said Wednesday it will stop enforcing a law that blocks benefits to partners of military veterans in same-sex marriages.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder said that a provision in federal law on benefits to veterans and their families defines "spouse" to mean a person of the opposite sex. He says that definition leaves out legally married same-sex couples, and runs afoul of a June Supreme Court ruling.
The court declared unconstitutional a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act restricting the words marriage and spouse to apply only to heterosexual unions. Holder says that like the Defense of Marriage Act, the provision in the veterans benefits law has the effect of placing lawfully married same-sex couples in a second-tier marriage.
"Decisions by the Executive not to enforce federal laws are appropriately rare," Holder told Congress. "Nevertheless, the unique circumstances presented here warrant non-enforcement."