Eric Holder: Gay Marriage Is the Next Civil Rights Issue

ABC News

From ABC's Chris Good, Pierre Thomas, Jason Ryan, Jack Cloherty, and Jack Date:

President Obama has "evolved" on gay marriage, his administration opposes the federal law against it, and now Attorney General Eric Holder says it's the next big civil-rights issue.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview on Wednesday, ABC's Pierre Thomas asked Holder how the Justice Department will approach the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to California's Prop. 8 marriage ban.

RELATED: Eric Holder Says Sequester Makes America Less Safe

While Holder declined to hint whether his department would take sides by filing a brief in the case, Holder did address gay marriage as an issue.

"From my perspective, this is really the latest civil-rights issue," Holder told ABC News. "It is the question of whether or not American citizens are going to be treated with equal protection of the laws. And so with regard to Prop. 8, we're in the process now of deciding what position we're gonna take."

In a February 2011 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Holder announced the administration's intention to drop its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ban on gay marriage-a holdover from the last Justice Department, which had similarly sought to uphold the law.

RELATED: Eric Holder: Home-Grown Terrorists Threat Rivals Overseas

The Justice Department's move was seen as a victory for gay-rights advocates, who had listed overturning DOMA among a handful of top priorities for the Obama administration since the president took office.