Thursday, May 31, 2012

First circuit rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

Late breaking news from Boston on the judicial/legislative/elective battles going on over same sex marriage's shaky status as a repugnant transaction: Appeals Court Rules Against Defense of Marriage Act

"A federal appeals court ruled unanimously Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, discriminates against married same-sex couples by denying them the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.

"The decision will have no immediate effect because it anticipates an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

"In upholding an earlier decision by a lower court, Thursday’s ruling, by a three-judge panel of the First United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, is the first time an appeals court has declared the federal law unconstitutional.

"The ruling dealt narrowly with the question of federal benefits for same-sex couples, not with the legality of same-sex marriage itself.
“Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification,” Martha Coakley, attorney general of Massachusetts, said in a statement. It was under Ms. Coakley’s direction that Massachusetts became the first state, in 2009, to complain formally that DOMA was unconstitutional.

"A federal judge in Massachusetts found in 2010 that the law violated the equal protection clause of the constitution by denying benefits to one class of married couples — gay men and lesbians — but not to others.

"The appeals court on Thursday agreed, saying the law interfered with the right of a state to define marriage. The benefits denied to same-sex couples range from the right to file joint tax returns, which can reduce a couple’s payments, to the ability to collect death benefits.

"While both sides wait to see whether the Supreme Court takes the case — Ms. Bonauto said that every expert she had talked to predicted it would — the ruling will not be enforced, meaning that same-sex couples cannot begin to collect federal benefits.

"The first circuit covers Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

"Since DOMA was passed, eight states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage; the states are Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. Maryland and Washington's laws are not yet in effect.

"President Obama campaigned against the law in 2008 and said in 2011 that his administration would not defend it. That has left the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, appointed by the Republican majority in the House, to defend the case. The group has said that Congress wanted to preserve DOMA because it provided a traditional and uniform definition of marriage, helping the federal government to distribute federal benefits."

Here's the ruling.

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