Friday, June 1, 2012

Federal Appeals Court: Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it both interferes with the right of individual states to define marriage and discriminates against same-sex married couples by denying them the same federal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. In an opinion written by Judge Michael Boudin, a conservative Reagan-appointee, the argument that DOMA was enacted to strengthen heterosexual marriages was soundly rejected:

Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage. [cites omitted]

As noted by The American Prospect, the 1st Circuit Court did not find that classifications based on sexual orientation merited heightened scrutiny, but this was still in line with Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v. Evans in which such classifications were subjected to the so-called "rational basis with teeth" analysis.

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