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Thread: DoMA Ruled Unconstitutional in Lower Court

  1. #1

    DoMA Ruled Unconstitutional in Lower Court

    [QUOTE]Boston appeals court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

    The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.

    In the unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel agreed with a decision made by a lower court in 2010 that DOMA is unconstitutional on the basis that it interferes with an individual state's right to define marriage.

    “Invalidating a federal statute is an unwelcome responsibility for federal judges; the elected Congress speaks for the entire nation, its judgment and good faith being entitled to utmost respect,’’ the ruling said. “But a lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings.”

    At issue is whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.
    "If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress' will, this statute fails that test," said the three-judge panel.

    In the ruling, the judges said that they weighed various factors. While they noted that the law does discriminate against a group that has, like many others, faced oppression, they did not view the federal law as something fueled by anti-homosexual sentiment.

    “As with the women, the poor and the mentally impaired, gays and lesbians have long been the subject of discrimination,’’ the ruling said. “In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA’s hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.’’

    Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley hailed the ruling by the appeals court.

    “Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification," she said in a press release. "It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second-class marriages, and it does harm to families in Massachusetts every day. All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”

    Last year President Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer argue for the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage.

    "My Justice Department has said to the courts, we don't think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional," the president said on "The View" earlier this month. "This is something that historically had been determined at the state level and part of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren't sufficient."

    In an interview with ABC this month, Obama also officially expressed support for members of the same gender to legally wed.

    "I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said in the interview.
    [/QUOTE]

    From CNN.

  2. #2
    Some key quotes from the decision:

    [QUOTE]The judgment of the district court is affirmed for the reasons and to the extent stated above. [B]Anticipating that certiorari will be sought and that Supreme Court review of DOMA is highly likely, the mandate is stayed, maintaining the district court's stay of its injunctive judgment, pending further order of this court.[/B] The parties will bear their own costs on these appeals.[/QUOTE]

    i.e. this will be decided by the Supreme Court before it has any effect.

    [QUOTE]DOMA affects a thousand or more generic cross-references to marriage in myriad federal laws. . . . Further, DOMA has potentially serious adverse consequences, hereafter described, for states that choose to legalize same-sex marriage.
    In Gill v. OPM, No. 10-2207, seven same-sex couples married in Massachusetts and three surviving spouses of such marriages brought suit in federal district court to enjoin pertinent federal agencies and officials from enforcing DOMA to deprive the couples of federal benefits available to opposite-sex married couples in Massachusetts. [B]The Commonwealth brought a companion case, Massachusetts v. DHHS, No. 10-2204, concerned that DOMA will revoke federal funding for programs tied to DOMA's opposite-sex marriage definition--such as Massachusetts' state Medicaid program and veterans' cemeteries[/B].
    By combining the income of individuals in same-sex marriages, Massachusetts' Medicaid program is noncompliant with DOMA, and the Department of Health and Human Services, through its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has discretion to rescind Medicaid funding to noncomplying states. [B]Burying a veteran with his or her same-sex spouse removes federal "veterans' cemetery" status and gives the Department of Veterans' Affairs discretion to recapture all federal funding for the cemetery.[/B][/QUOTE]

    Interesting consequences of DOMA I never considered.

    [QUOTE][B]This case is difficult because it couples issues of equal protection and federalism with the need to assess the rationale for a congressional statute passed with minimal hearings and lacking in formal findings[/B]. In addition, Supreme Court precedent offers some help to each side, but the rationale in several cases is open to interpretation. We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, [B]but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.[/B][/QUOTE]

    Hence the stay

    [QUOTE]Although our decision discusses equal protection and federalism concerns separately, it concludes that governing precedents under both heads combine--[B]not to create some new category of "heightened scrutiny"[/B] for DOMA under a prescribed algorithm, but [B]rather to require a closer than usual review [/B]based in part on discrepant impact among married couples and in part on the importance of state interests in regulating marriage. Our decision then tests the rationales offered for DOMA, taking account of Supreme Court precedent limiting which rationales can be counted and of the force of certain rationales.[/QUOTE]

    This will be the key issue for the Supreme Court, most likely - what level of review is operative here.

    [QUOTE]The Legal Group says that any equal protection challenge to DOMA is foreclosed at the outset by Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972). There, a central claim made was that a state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage violated federal equal protection principles. . . .On appeal, the Supreme Court dismissed summarily for want of a substantial federal
    question. Id.

    Baker is precedent binding on us unless repudiated by subsequent Supreme Court precedent. Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 344 (1975). . . . A Supreme Court summary dismissal "prevent[s] lower courts from coming to opposite conclusions on the precise issues presented and necessarily decided by those actions." Mandel v. Bradley, 432 U.S. 173, 176 (1977) (per curiam). [B]Baker does not resolve our own case but it does limit the arguments to ones that do not presume or rest on a constitutional right to same-sex marriage[/B].[/QUOTE]

    Important point here - the First Circuit is [B]not[/B] asserting that there is a constitutional right to gay marriage.

    [QUOTE][B]Under such a rational basis standard, the Gill plaintiffs cannot prevail. [/B]Consider only one of the several justifications for DOMA offered by Congress itself, namely, that broadening the definition of marriage will reduce tax revenues and increase social security payments. This is the converse of the very advantages that the Gill plaintiffs are seeking, and Congress could rationally have believed that DOMA would reduce costs, even if newer studies of the actual economic effects of DOMA suggest that it may in fact raise costs for the federal government.[/QUOTE]

    First Circuit has no doubt that there is a rational basis for DOMA

  3. #3
    It seems to be an issue/question of Gender Descrimination and a variation of "Different, but Equal".

    For example, any Man can marry any women. Any woman can marry any man. Is that different-but-equal, every man and woman has the same rights to marry someone of the opposite gender (hence equality), and are barred from marrying someone of the opposite gender (hence equllaity)? Different but equal based on genitalia alone.

    Interesting is this, if in fact the Court eventually finds that no, different but equal based on genitalia is NOT legal,it IS descrimination, then what about different restrooms for men and women, as a basic example? Just because every man can use the mens room, and every woman can use the ladies room, does not (if the same logic is followed) mean I (a man) should not have the freedom to use a public ladies room if I choose. Barring me from that is descrimination based on my genitalia, logicly consistent with the argument for homosexual marriage rights. Different is not equal. Seperate is not equal.

    I think this issue could have some rather unexpected wide ranging effects, depending on the basis of the finding of descrimination or unequal treatment. At the core, the argument is :genitalia shouldn;t matter" under the Law.....something that may effect things beyond just marriage.
    Last edited by Warfish; 05-31-2012 at 01:47 PM.

  4. #4
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    [QUOTE=Warfish;4481144]It seems to be an issue/question of Gender Descrimination and a variation of "Different, but Equal".

    For example, any Man can marry any women. Any woman can marry any man. Is that different-but-equal, every man and woman has the same rights to marry someone of the opposite gender (hence equality), and are barred from marrying someone of the opposite gender (hence equllaity)? Different but equal based on genitalia alone.

    Interesting is this, if in fact the Court eventually finds that no, different but equal based on genitalia is NOT legal,it IS descrimination, then what about different restrooms for men and women, as a basic example? Just because every man can use the mens room, and every woman can use the ladies room, does not (if the same logic is followed) mean I (a man) should not have the freedom to use a public ladies room if I choose. Barring me from that is descrimination based on my genitalia, logicly consistent with the argument for homosexual marriage rights. Different is not equal. Seperate is not equal.

    I think this issue could have some rather unexpected wide ranging effects, depending on the basis of the finding of descrimination or unequal treatment. At the core, the argument is :genitalia shouldn;t matter" under the Law.....something that may effect things beyond just marriage.[/QUOTE]

    Great posts by both of you guys so far, very interesting ruling. Looking forward to the SCOTUS taking this on.

    That said, this may also be one of the oddest posts I've ever read. Bathrooms? Does genitalia matter? To me, greatly. But to each his own ;)

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