US: Pro-gay Attorney General Eric Holder steps down

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The US Attorney General Eric Holder, a prominent gay rights advocate in the Obama administration, is to step down.

Mr Holder has served as the country’s top law official since 2008, and was just one of three remaining members of President Obama’s original cabinet.

He was instrumental in the decision to stop defending the Defence of Marrriage Act in 2011 – paving the way for it to be struck down by the Supreme Court last year – and has weighed in on several marriage ban cases.

In Utah and other states where same-sex couples were before bans were put in place, Mr Holder ordered the federal government to treat them as married, despite the individuals state not doing so.

In February this year he pledged to “aggressively defend” equal marriage in the court system, and confirmed in July that the Department of Justice will argue in favour of striking down bans on same-sex marriage if the Supreme Court takes up a case.

Obama said: “I chose him to serve as attorney general because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory — it’s a living and breathing principle. That’s why I made him America’s lawyer, the people’s lawyer.”

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said: “Some Attorneys General wait for history, others make history happen. Attorney General Holder made history for the LGBT community.

“He was our Robert F. Kennedy, lightening the burden of every American who faces legal discrimination and social oppression. We owe him a profound debt of gratitude for his legacy of advocacy and service.”

Jon W Davidson of Lambda Legal said “LGBT people and people living with HIV. Under his leadership, the Department of Justice did something especially remarkable and powerful: it switched sides and joined the fight for the freedom to marry, moving the U.S. government from the wrong to the right side of history.

“Instead of defending the mean-spirited and harmful Defence of Marriage Act, he helped to bring it down.

“Since then, the Department of Justice has followed through in bringing about wide federal recognition of marriages entered by same-sex couples.

“He stood firmly in defence of the Constitution and justice; he spoke eloquently about equality, and he led forcefully. We thank Attorney General Holder for his courage and his service to our country.”