WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Eric Holder says state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws in their states banning same sex-marriage if they don't believe in them.
Holder made the remarks Tuesday at a winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Democratic attorneys general in five states -- Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Nevada -- have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans against lawsuits filed by gay couples
"Any decisions -- at any level -- not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare," Holder told state attorneys general at a meeting of their national association. "And they must never stem merely from policy or political disagreements -- hinging instead on firm constitutional grounds."
His own view, he said, is that "we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation."
Holder himself refused to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2011, which helped lead to last year's Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of that law that denied gay married couples the federal benefits and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
"Our actions were motivated by the strong belief that all measures that distinguish among people based on their sexual orientation must be subjected to a heightened standard of scrutiny -- and, therefore, that this measure was unconstitutional discrimination," Holder said.