A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in the context of federal business, is unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution's equal protection clause. The ruling follows a similar one by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston earlier this year, making it likely that the future of DOMA will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Writing for a two-to-one majority of the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Dennis Jacobs declared that homosexuals had “suffered a history of discrimination” and there was no reason same-sex couples should be denied the same rights and benefits traditional married couples enjoy. The ruling affirmed a lower court verdict in favor of a woman who had been required to pay $363,000 in federal estate tax following the death of her longtime lesbian partner.
While mirroring the 1st Circuit Court's ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional, Jacobs moved beyond the Boston court's, reported the Associated Press, “saying discrimination against gays should be scrutinized by the courts in the same heightened way as discrimination faced by women was in the 1970s. At the time, he noted, they faced widespread discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere. The heightened scrutiny, as it is referred to in legal circles, would mean government discrimination against gays would be assumed to be unconstitutional.”
The issue, wrote Jacobs, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, “is not whether homosexuals have achieved political successes over the years; they clearly have. The question is whether they have the strength to politically protect themselves from wrongful discrimination.” Declared Jacobs: “Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public.”
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