Thursday, July 08, 2010

Traditional Marriage Law Unconstitutional: Federal Judge on DOMA

A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.

UPDATE 5/31/12: Defense of Marriage Act heads to US Supreme Court

-- From "Federal gay marriage ban is ruled unconstitutional" by Denise Lavoie, Associated Press 7/8/10

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples' rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.

The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.

Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens. The act "plainly encroaches" upon the right of the state to determine marriage, Tauro said in his ruling on a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

In a ruling in a separate case filed by Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro ruled the act violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "U.S. Judge Finds Defense of Marriage Act Invalid" by Andrew M. Harris, Bloomberg 7/8/10

The marriage-defining act, popularly known as DoMA, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. As of 2003, it affected 1,138 federal programs in which marital status was a factor in eligibility for benefits, the judge said, citing a 2004 report by the federal government.

Tracy Schmaler, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that officials are reviewing the decision.

The state’s case is Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, 09-cv-11156, and the couples’ case is Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, 09-cv-10309, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge Topples U.S. Rejection of Gay Unions" By Abby Goodnough And John Schwartz, New York Times 7/8/10

Although legal experts disagreed over how the rulings would fare on appeal, the judge’s decisions were nonetheless sure to further inflame the nationwide debate over same-sex marriage and gay rights.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said federal officials were reviewing the decision and had no further comment. But lawyers for the plaintiffs said they fully expected the Obama administration to appeal. An appeal would be heard by the First Circuit, which also includes Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire.

. . . Neither suit challenged a separate provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that says states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. But if the cases make their way to the Supreme Court and are upheld, same-sex couples around the country will be eligible for federal benefits that are now granted only to heterosexual married couples.

Some constitutional scholars said they were surprised by Judge Tauro’s opinions in the two cases.

“What an amazing set of opinions,” said Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School. “No chance they’ll be held up on appeal.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read this from February 2009: Federal Defense of Marriage Act DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional