Thursday, May 31, 2012

Federal Appeals Court overturns key provision of DOMA

In what will without a doubt be a landmark decision, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston today ruled that key pieces of the Defense of Marriage Act, that 90s-era law prohibiting the federal government from extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples, violates the Constitution.

The case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, hinges on whether the government has a rational reason for discriminating against gay couples. The court clearly thinks not, because "moral disapproval" should not be the basis of laws.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. The court didn't rule on the law's other provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in other states.
Metro Weekly provides a portion of the ruling:
[M]any Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today. One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.
Here is a PDF of the decision.

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