Gay rights advocates and civil libertarians are applauding the announcement by the Obama administration Wednesday that they will no longer defend the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, the law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT Project said the significance of the announcement will depend on whether courts determine the law is unconstitutional.
"But certainly it can only be a good thing that now even the U.S. Justice Department agrees that government discrimination against gay people has to be justified with a real reason and that the government doesn't have that kind of reason," Esseks said.
One of the cases currently challenging the law was brought by New York's 81-year-old Edith Windsor. She filed a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to recognize her marriage. Windsor said she believes the Justice Department's announcement will remove some of the stigma imposed on gay people over the years.
"I hurry to include in that the teenagers who fall in love for the first time and believed there was no hope, and I believe they have hope now," Windsor said.
A spokesman for the Empire State Pride Agenda said the announcement has inspired them to redouble their efforts to allow same sex-couples to marry in New York State.
Opponents to changes or repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act such as the National Organization for Marriage have not responded to WNYC's request for comment.