A big item in the news this past week was very good news for Patient and Persistent Progressives.

The announcement by the Obama administration that they will no longer defend the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a major victory for LGBT rights.

It did not come as quickly as some would have liked, it did not come as completely as some would have liked but it arrived … and it is a signal that we have turned a corner.

Here is the news release:

“The Obama Justice Department has decided that part of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and will not defend the 1996 law forbidding the government from recognizing same-sex marriage in federal court.

“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.”

In a Perfect Progressive world, when Barack Obama was sworn in as president on January 20, 2009, he would have immediately stopped all defense of DOMA and worked immediately for its repeal. But we do not live in a Perfect Progressive world … we live a world where Pragmatic Progressives can work at the grassroots level (in the states) and shift the Overton window to make it less risky for our elected officials to do the correct thing (the Progressive thing!).

And the fact that this decision was made in 2011 knowing full well that in 2012 same-sex marriage and gay rights will be part of the presidential campaign means that President Obama and his team feel like enough progress has been made that they can do this without risking electoral defeat.

Here is the reality:

(Blue is legal. Gray means out-of-state same-sex marriages recognized. Blues stripes means civil unions or some rights. Red means marriage banned by constitution. Maroon means marriage and anything similar banned by constitution)

There is little doubt that the shift by the Justice Department is momentous and will change this landscape. If nothing else, it will pave the way for recognition at the federal level which means it impacts Social Security survivor benefits.

In the wake of this announcement, the Maryland state senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic governor Martin O’Malley has indicated he would sign it once it passes the House of Delegates.

Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Within 8 years, four more states legalized it (Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire). In California, Proposition 8 was overturned and marriages will once again take place after that lawsuit wends its way through the appellate court system.

Funny thing about progress. It starts out slow. Sometimes it is not even visible. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. But at some point, the progress is big enough and visible enough that it reaches a critical point and we turn the corner.

That is what happened last week. The inappropriately named Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, no longer has the protection of the federal government.

And that is real progress.