Defense of Marriage Act Found Unconstitutional in Federal Court, Again

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Defense of Marriage Act Found Unconstitutional in Federal Court, Again

by
Common Dreams staff

Gay-rights activists celebrated a win in the battle against California's Proposition 8 (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Late Wednesday, a federal judge in New York ruled that the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a 'man and woman', is unconstitutional, as it discriminates against married same-sex couples -- the fifth federal hearing to reject DOMA on Constitutionality.

Federal Judge Jones said that the Defense of Marriage Act intrudes "upon the states' business of regulating domestic relations."

The law prohibits same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage-based benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits, health benefits and jointly filing taxes.

The case was brought to court by ACLU and Edie Windsor who argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as though they are not. Windsor sued the government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York.

Wednesdays ruling is the second ruling this week in favor of same-sex marriage, the fifth case to strike down DOMA, and the fourth such ruling in 2012 alone. DOMA is now likely to face the Supreme Court.

* * *

ACLU: Another DOMA Win!

A federal judge ruled today that a critical section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples. Today’s decision joins four other federal courts that have struck down DOMA under the Constitution.

The statute had been challenged by Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York.

“Thea and I shared our lives together for 44 years, and I miss her each and every day,” said Windsor. “It’s thrilling to have a court finally recognize how unfair it is for the government to have treated us as though we were strangers.”

In her lawsuit, Windsor argues that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as though they were not, in fact, married. Windsor's lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union. [...]

Roberta A. Kaplan, an attorney for Windsor, added, “Although we expect the attorneys for the House of Representatives to appeal today's decision, we are confident that it will be affirmed on appeal, and we hope that the court will do so expeditiously given that our client is 83 years old.”

“Today’s decision is a victory for families and a victory for human rights,” said New York Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney Melissa Goodman. “Now, all loving couples in our state can truly enjoy the dignity, respect and legal rights that marriage provides.”

* * *

Reuters: Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional: judge

A law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman was found unconstitutional by a federal judge in New York on Wednesday because it improperly interferes with states' rights to regulate marriage.

The ruling by Manhattan federal court judge Barbara Jones followed a decision last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston that concluded the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against gay couples.

Judge Jones became the fifth judge to find the 1996 law unconstitutional, adding weight to the demands of law makers and activists who want the law repealed.

On May 9, Barack Obama became the first president to publicly express support for gay marriage, saying he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

On Wednesday, Judge Jones said that under the pretext of creating a uniform law for all, the law intrudes "upon the states' business of regulating domestic relations."

"Such a sweeping federal review in this arena does not square with our federalist system of government," Jones wrote.

# # #

Share This Article

More in: