US closer to recognising gay marriage after White House announcement.
Obama administration will no longer defend legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 February 2011
Same-sex couples in the US are one step closer to being able to marry under federal law.
Gay rights activists are celebrating another step forward after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend legislation that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The decision opens the way for the federal government to recognise same-sex marriages. It comes only three months after the White House said it would end legislation discriminating against gay men and lesbians in the military.
Eight US states permit same-sex marriages but these are not recognised by the federal government, which does afford these couples the same treatment as heterosexual couples in terms of taxation, health benefits and in other areas.
The Obama administration said on Wednesday it would no longer ask the justice department to defend the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act in court.
The decision will spark another fight with social conservatives, who are almost certain to challenge it in court.
During the 2008 election campaign Obama said he favoured civil unions but would not back same-sex marriages. In December, after announcing an end to discrimination in the military, he said his views on gay rights were changing and he was rethinking same-sex marriage.
The White House press spokesman, Jay Carney, told journalists that Obama had still not reached a resolution on the question.