An intrusive federal law gets in the way of states moving toward same-sex marriage equality, and a federal appeals court ruled the impediment, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.
A FEDERAL appeals court ruling that found the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional points the U.S. Supreme Court toward conclusions reached by the Washington state Legislature.
Gay marriage is about private lives, families and the rights and responsibilities that come with the decision by a couple to share a life together. The federal government has no credible role in denying those unions.
The ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, a unanimous vote, dissected a flawed, discriminatory federal law.
For starters, the court said the law interfered with the established rights of states to regulate marriage. And couples from states where same-sex marriages were recognized were denied equal protection in pursuit of federal benefits for spouses — from filing joint tax returns to pensions and Social Security, and health- and life-insurance coverage.
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Complicating cross-references to marriage turn up throughout federal law, the court noted: “The number of couples thus affected is estimated at more than 100,000.” And that is with a handful of states that grant marriage rights to gay couples.
The court focuses on benefits and discrimination, but rolls its judicial eyes at a poorly thought-through law with two operative paragraphs, scant legislative record, no formal findings and the thinnest of legal rationales.
DOMA’s intrusiveness and unintended consequences, Judge Michael Boudin notes, have the potential to complicate everything for states, from Medicaid to veterans’ cemeteries.
Gay marriage is headed to the nation’s highest court because “only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.” But the opinion lays out the legal precedents, in particular the court’s own observation that the topic of domestic relations belongs to the laws of the states.
The Supreme Court may decide only this case, this piece of the argument, for now. Washington’s Legislature took the incremental path and reached the right conclusion: Same-sex marriage is all about families.