The Department of Justice filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a law President Obama has condemned in the past.
The 1996 law bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and enables states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages in other states.
Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle breaks down the differences between the Bush administration and Obama administration for defending the law.
Its court filing steered clear of the justification of the law it had offered under President George W. Bush: that it promotes a traditional form of marriage best suited for procreating and raising children.
Instead, the Obama administration argued that the law preserves long-standing state authority to define marriage while saving taxpayer dollars.
With societal attitudes in flux, the department said, the law adopted "a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage," allowing states to expand the traditional definition of wedlock but declining "to obligate federal taxpayers in other states to subsidize a form of marriage their own states do not recognize."
A spokesperson gave Ben Smith at Politico this statement:
As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.