Federal Courts Rushing to Declare DOMA Unconstitutional

By:  Dave Bohon
06/01/2012
       
Federal Courts Rushing to Declare DOMA Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled May 31 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which for federal purposes defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional because it denies the federal benefits of marriage to homosexual partners in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled May 31 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman for federal purposes, is unconstitutional because it denies the federal benefits of marriage to homosexual partners in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

The Associated Press reported that the panel “agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law 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 AP noted that the court didn’t rule on DOMA’s provision, saying that “states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it’s legal. It also wasn’t asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.”

Circuit Judge Michael Boudin, writing for the three-judge panel, acknowledged that the ruling carries little weight since the case, and others like it, will eventually land in the U.S. Supreme Court. “Many 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,” Boudin wrote, reflecting on the conflict that exists between states and the federal government on the issue. “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.”

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