DOMA, the Department of Justice, and Congress: A Conversation About the Road Ahead

28-Mar-2011

In a February 23, 2011 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Obama Administration’s position that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and would no longer be defended in court by the federal government. Subsequently, Speaker Boehner announced his intent to have the House of Representatives step in to defend DOMA in court. Many questions remain. What exactly did the letter from Attorney General Holder mean?  How is that letter squared with the general presumption that the federal government will defend laws that remain on the books?  How does the letter fit within the context of historic examples of exceptions to the duty to defend? What is the difference between the federal government’s duty to defend laws and its duty to enforce laws while litigation is pending? What is the process going forward for the various pending cases? What are the ramifications of the government’s views on heightened scrutiny for classifications involving sexual orientation? Two legal scholars with extensive federal government experience will discuss these and other issues, along with answering audience questions, on a national conference call. Speakers include Nan Hunter, /professor of Law and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs at Georgetown Law, and Peter Shane, professor at Moritz  College of Law at Ohio State University.