DOMA Updates

By now, most everyone is aware that the Obama administration is appealing the July 2010 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and
Human Services
which stated, in pertinent part:

“This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status. The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid.”

In a separate case, filed by GLAD (Gay Lesbian Advocates and Defenders), known as Gill v. Office of Personal Management, the Judge determined that:

“In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple
entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled. And this court can conceive
of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue.
By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal
government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married
individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those
with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction
without meaning. And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class
is different, in relevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is
only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification.149 As irrational prejudice
plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of
DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Read GLAD’s Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Pending Federal Court Litigation Challenging DOMA ection 3 – Federal Definition of Marriage for an analysis of the two cases and answers to the most common questions about the DOMA rulings.

Related news items:

Why The White House Will Fight The Tauro DOMA Ruling [Huffington Post]


Obama Justice Department Appeals DOMA Rulings []

Following the July 2010 DOMA decisions, New York Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard, opined that the DOMA decicsions should be appealed, and for good legal reason:

“To get a good precedential decision on the unconstitutionality of Section 3 that has some binding force, we need a decision by an appellate court. Appealing is necessary to get that, and the plaintiffs can’t appeal, only the losing defendants – in this case, the federal government,can appeal.”

Read his entire post: The DOMA Decisions Should Be Appealed

John Culhane, a Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law Institute at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware, took a similar stance after the July deciions were released:

“Will the Obama Administration appeal the ruling? I suspect they will, and I hope so.

Otherwise the decision is binding only in Massachusetts, fencing out couples from other states with marriage equality.

If the case does go to the Supreme Court, there’s a reasonable chance that this kind of targeted suit could win five votes (yes, it all depends on Justice Kennedy). While the Court might not be ready to hold that states must recognize marriage equality, striking down an unprecedented federal law as obviously biased against gay and lesbian people as DOMA is much easier.”

Read his entire post: Culhane: DOMA decision is a ruling for equality



Disclaimer:  The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice.   I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog. Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2010 Irene C. Olszewski


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