Lyle Denniston
July 5, 2012

The Supreme Court Justices have left a steaming Washington – a summer heat wave and a searing new dispute over how they made the health care decision – but no sooner had they departed than the next major controversy arrived.

Awaiting them at the end of summer will be the issue of same-sex marriage, as emotionally charged as any issue they faced even in the difficult term just ended.

As if to prolong the partisan conflict that surrounded the health care decision, President Obama’s Justice Department is facing off in the new cases against the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives. They will be jousting over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that defines marriage for all federal purposes (benefits included) as only the union of a man and a woman. More than 1,000 federal laws are involved.

In the background is the deep discontent in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives with Attorney General Eric Holder, due in part to the fact that he led the administration into changing the government’s position from a defender to a challenger of DOMA. The House’s citation of him for contempt of Congress actually was prompted by a list of grievances, but his stance on gay rights was a prominent one.

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