July 14, 2011
The U.S. Justice Department has withdrawn its appeal to challenge an attempted joint bankruptcy petition filed by a married gay couple in California, according to multiple reports.
The Justice Department was reportedly ordered to challenge a California bankruptcy court's ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and should not impede a gay couple's ability to jointly file for consumer bankruptcy protection.
Until now, the Justice Department has often intervened to stop joint bankruptcy petitions by gay couples, arguing that DOMA bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. However, shortly after announcing it would challenge the California court's decision, the Department filed a petition to withdraw its appeal. In an email, Justice Department spokesperson Tracy Schmaler told Reuters that the policy change, "avoids generating costly and time-consuming constitutional litigation."
A lawyer for Gene Douglas Balas and Carlos Morales, the couple in question in the lawsuit, told the news source that the decision could signal bigger changes in the nation's stance on gay marriage.
"It's more than we could have hoped for," he said. "Now we have a change in nationwide policy."
The Obama administration may be making moves to encourage that change. In February, the administration said it will no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court.