The Justice Department has filed legal papers to dismiss a case in which a same-sex couple is seeking a determination on whether their union is entitled to be acknowledged by states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
The suit also demands a ruling on whether they are eligible for federal benefits, according to ABC News.
The administration’s move has drawn criticism from gay rights groups which have pointed to the fact that as a presidential candidate Obama vowed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prevents the federal government from treating a same-sex union as marriage.
"The malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Justice Department’s brief [are] only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families," says Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
Defenders of traditional marriage remain cautious, however.
Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus International, warns on his blog against being "deceived" into thinking Obama will not redefine marriage and family.
"I think we must remember that while the Obama Justice Department is seemingly repeating social conservative arguments other Obama administration departments are inculcating gay ideology into their corporate environments," he writes, quoted by Christian Post.
The Justice Department has said President Obama wants to see an overturn of DOMA but will defend the existing statute until Congress passes legislation repealing the law.