Big news! The First Court of Appeals ruled in Boston today that it is unconstitutional to deny federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The ruling applies to Section Three of the Defense Of Marriage Act.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. The court didn’t rule on the law’s other provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in other states.
Metro Weekly provides a portion of the ruling:
[M]any 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.
Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley
Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification. 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.
We are thrilled that another court- this time, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit – has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny respect to the marriages of lesbian and gay couples. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged in multiple cases and it won’t be long before that bad law is gone for good. We congratulate our colleagues at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the State of Massachusetts for achieving this wonderful victory.
Freedom To Marry
Today’s unanimous decision issued by the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a powerful affirmation that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is an unconstitutional and unjust law whose days are numbered. This ruling will return the federal government to its historic role of respecting marriages performed in the states, without carving out a ‘gay exception’ that denies thousands of protections. As more loving same-sex couples commit their lives to one another in marriage, the harms of this unjust law become more clear – from service members, risking their lives to protect ours, being denied the ability to protect their own families through military medical insurance or survivor benefits to senior citizens having to move out of their homes after their partners of many decades pass on because they cannot access Social Security protections afforded any other legally married couple.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
At SLDN, we applaud the court for affirming that legal marriages in the states – and all the rights and protections that come with those marriages – should be recognized and respected by our federal government. Though a narrow decision, this important victory nonetheless paves the way further for litigation like McLaughlin v. U.S., SLDN’s case on behalf of married gay and lesbian service members and veterans who are denied equal recognition, support and benefits for their families by this discriminatory law. We congratulate the GLAD attorneys and plaintiffs in this case and look forward with them to the day when every American – especially those putting their lives on the line to protect our nation – has the freedom to marry the person they love, knowing that their commitment will be honored by their government.
Human Rights Campaign
This ruling is a historic victory for loving gay and lesbian couples and their children. For the first time, a federal appeals court has recognized that our constitution will not tolerate a law that forces the federal government to deny lawfully-married same-sex couples equal treatment. The writing is clearly on the wall for the demise of this unjust and indefensible law that hurts real families.We applaud GLAD, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the courageous plaintiffs for their incredible efforts on behalf of gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts and across the nation.