Gay rights activists in the United States are celebrating another step forward after the Barack Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend the legislation that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to the Congress on Wednesday that the administration had determined that the Defence of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress in 1996, discriminated against gays and therefore could no longer be accepted as reasonable, the Guardian reports.
Holder said that the Congress may wish to appoint its own lawyers to defend the law, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or extending them the same benefits granted to heterosexual unions.
The decision comes three months after the White House said that it would end legislation discriminating against gay men and lesbians in the military.
It is expected to spark another row with social conservatives, who are almost certain to launch a legal challenge.
Eight US states permit same-sex marriages, but the federal government does not recognise them.
Hawaii became the latest state to legalise same-sex civil unions on Tuesday, granting gay and lesbian couples the same state rights as married partners.