Court strikes down DOMA

by
July 9, 2010

By JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico

Gay-rights advocates scored a major victory Thursday as a federal judge in Boston ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act — a measure Congress passed in 1996 to prevent the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage—is unconstitutional.

Judge Joseph Tauro said the federal government essentially had no business seeking to regulate marriage rules, which he said have traditionally been the exclusive province of the states.

“The government’s argument assumes that Congress has some interest in a uniform definition of marriage for purposes of determining federal rights, benefits, and privileges. There is no such interest,” Tauro wrote in ruling on a pair of lawsuits challenging the anti-gay marriage law known as DOMA.

“Importantly, the passage of DOMA marks the first time that the federal government has ever attempted to legislatively mandate a uniform federal definition of marriage–or any other core concept of domestic relations, for that matter.”

“Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit,” Tauro wrote.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the rulings, but lawyers on various sides of the issue said it was a certainty that the government will appeal and likely that the cases will reach the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, a plaintiff in one of the suits hailed the decision as major advance for same-sex couples. “I am so happy I can’t even put it into words,” said Nancy Gill, a postal employee seeking health benefits for her female spouse. “I couldn’t in my wildest dreams see how anybody could deny us…. It just never seemed fair to me that I could be married and not be treated like a married couple by my employer.”

“Today is a victory for civil rights in Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Attorney General and unsuccessful senate candidate Martha Coakley, whose office brought the other lawsuit, which challenged DOMA impact on states.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/39518.html#ixzz0tBQFptPr

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