First Circuit Strikes Down DOMA And Definition Of Marriage As Between A Man And A Woman

In a major victory for gay rights, the United States Court of Appeal for the First Circuit in Boston has found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in a unanimous ruling. The court found that the 1996 law discriminates against homosexual couples. The law was supported by Bill Clinton and by the Obama Administration until the latter recently reversed its position in court and withdrew support for the law before the Court. The case is Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.

Notably, the decision did not rule on the key issue of full faith and credit — whether states without same-sex marriage can be forced to recognize gay unions or divorces from states where they are legal. The law was struck down as denying the right of the state to determine how to define marriage and denies gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples.

The case sets up an extremely likely Supreme Court review on the issue with the same-sex case in the Ninth Circuit moving toward the Court. Ironically, today we will be filing the summary judgment motion in the Sister Wives case involving plural marriage and polygamy.

Judge Michael Boudin, a Republican appointee, wrote the opinion. Another Republican appointee signed on — Judge Juan Torruella. Before going to the Supreme Court, there may be a petition for an en banc review from the entire First Circuit. The decision upholds the ruling of district court Judge Joseph L. Tauro.

The discussion of the relevant standard for equal protection is interesting as is the following statement on the defense of the act as simply supporting traditional marriage:

For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute. This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.
To conclude, 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. 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.

Source: Boston

30 thoughts on “First Circuit Strikes Down DOMA And Definition Of Marriage As Between A Man And A Woman”

  1. puzzling said:

    “…I am not sure the politicization of marriage will end unless government gets out of the business of defining and licensing it entirely.”

    You have it exactly and dangerously wrong. We most certainly do not want marriage defined or administered by religion.

    Marriage has always been about rights and property, and has been appropriately administered by secular government as long as there has been secular government. What needs to happen is to get religion out of the marriage game.

    Religion has its own purview on the issue, however, which must be protected. In Christianity this is known as “Holy Matrimony”. Religious rites and definitions such as Holy Matrimony should be sacrosanct, and they should have absolutely zero to say about the civil contract of marriage between two people.

    This is what the separation of Church and State is all about. We will keep the State out of the the rites of the Church, and they need to keep their great big blue noses out of civil government.

  2. I’d like to hear some opinions on the question of jurisdiction in this case (Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (10-2204) ) and similar ones.
    From Art III Sec 2, “In all Cases … in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.”.
    Since Mass. is a party, this case should have been filed in the SC to begin with.
    The above clause continues, “In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, …”
    Yet if the case does get to the SC, they will then be exercising appellate jurisdiction, rather than original jurisdiction.
    This is just backwards from what the Constitution clearly states — isn’t it?

  3. “The law (Defense of Marriage Act) was supported by Bill Clinton and by the Obama Administration until the latter recently reversed its position in court and withdrew support for the law before the Court.”

    Interesting that President Obama was O.K. with DOMA for 16 years and then had a sudden revelation at the start of the re-election campaign. Perhaps he noticed that a lot of his “coalition” folks were still marching in a leftward direction while he spent 3 1/2 years tip-toeing to the right. Same problem with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. While the Log Cabin Republicans were fighting to repeal DADT, President O’s Attorney General was in court supporting DADT. Now Obama acts like he was responsible for its repeal.

    It’s a little late in the game for President Obama to try to establish Liberal credentials- once you put them through the shredder they are very hard to Scotch tape back together.

    “Moving Right” by Ted Rall:

  4. OT:

    “Edwards verdict: Not guilty on Count 3; judge rules a mistrial on the other 5 charges. Sure he’s a pig, but that shouldn’t mean 30 years in prison!”~Randi Rhodes

  5. “Well when we can give our courts ANY faith and ANY credit, we’ll be in a new ball park indeed.”

    Instead of “Hear, hear: let me say that laws are said to be incorruptible. Now that’s obviously not true since
    they are often produced by corrupt persons for corrupt reasons. But equally true is the case of good clean respected laws which can be corrupted by corrupt persons.

    Seems obvious. OK, but is there any system of justice which is not consequently corrupted, only for the interests solely of power sharing between personnel and coop between different venuss?

    My purpose is to only to point out the trepidation which must arise on entering into a transaction in our judicial system. No personal complaints myself. It is the apparent harm to others that concerns me.

    And how can these concealed machinations be destroyed?

    Could we have laws requiring contracts upon entering employment with the justice system, such as those which exist for CIA employees? Then routine annual lie detector tests could be administered. To both sides of the box of course.

    And would we meed to have a grandfather clause or a generous pension for those earlier hires found wanting in order to get it by the Congress? Naw, it is just a routine administrative adjustment to a personnel policy.

    Got to keep up with the times.

  6. Matt:

    “I already saw that movie. Natalie Portman is cute.”


    We agree on that.

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