Boston appeals court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
May 31st, 2012
10:58 AM ET

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.

By the numbers: Same-sex marriage | Read the full opinion


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soundoff (384 Responses)
  1. Bill Miller

    The article says "Defense of marrige act" discriminated against gay couples. well I guess you could say the the law against stealing discriminates against thieves and laws against killing discriminates against murderes. It seems to me that a law permitting gay marrige is discriminating against NATURE.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • NotaBigot

      I always find it amusing that the bigots against gay marriage always have the worst grammar/spelling.

      Buddy, if you want to talk intelligently about marriage learn how to spell it.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Putting gays in the same group with thieves and murderers? Where's the victim in a gay relationship?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      What nature, are there laws of nature being broken?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • FrankB

      Where do Gays come from? Hmm... oh yeah, GOD. Got a problem? Take it up with him.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Wayne

      LOL What?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Arsio

      lol Agreed Bill

      May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • lafnlab

      If you read the article again, you'll notice it doesn't say anything about DOMA discriminating against gays. It says DOMA interferes with a state's right to define marriage. It's more of a states' rights issue than a LGBT issue.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • timmaahhyy

      Marriage is not natural. it is completely man made.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Oh Bill who are you to say it is against nature. How dare you pit murders, theives with Gays no even in the same scope. I hate to say it but we are here to stay and we will have the legal right to Marry who we want. HAHA

      May 31, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • uniblob

      Well, now you're just being silly.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Where in NATURE is there a marriage, other than in humans?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Nicolas

      Just like everyone else before you who opposed voting rights for women, civil rights and opposed to ending slavery, you too will end up on the wrong side of history. Like it or not the world is moving forward, with or without you, like it or not it's going to happen. You may be able to delay it for a few years, maybe a decade or two, but in the end you will loose this battle and the world will be a better more tolerant place.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • John John

      Mr. Miller, impulse stealing and murder are hardly good examples to argue against here. Are you perfect?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill Miller Gay

      Sounds like Billy sorely misses the c*ck.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • RSFan

      There is nothing "natural" about marriage. Marriage is a human construction.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Fn0rdz

      You've got a lot to learn, because marriage in general isn't seen in nature.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Jakey

      It seems to me you should learn more about nature.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • USAP

      I agree. I attempted to terminate a gay employee who was hitting on three of my married male employees, causing one of them to quit, and found that gay employees have far more rights than stright employees.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      Notabigot is right, Bill. Your grammar and spelling erode what little wisdom there may be in your argument.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • NoH8

      You are a flat out bigot. Anyone who can compare decent loving hard working people equal rights based on who they love is nothing more than a backwards low life who should be put down like a dog. You are FILTH!!!!!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Frink

      You COULD say that, if you wanted to sound like a total moron with no ability to compare things with commonality.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      What the law does is say that two people that are in a committed relationship cannot receive the same benefits as others simply because they happen to be the same gender. This is not a matter of legislating a crime since criminal activity has a negative effect on individuals or society and the only effect on the individual associated with this law is the negative effect on individuals in a relationship. To say that couples of the same gender are the same as thieves is hateful and to say that it goes against nature ignores the huge amount of evidence to the contrary.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • BillMillerSux

      Ultimately, you're just an id10t.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      What the law does is say that two people that are in a committed relationship cannot receive the same benefits as others simply because they happen to be the same gender. This is not a matter of legislating a crime since criminal activity has a negative effect on individuals or society and the only effect on the individual associated with this law is the negative effect on individuals in a relationship. To say that couples of the same gender are the same as thieves is hateful and to say that it goes against nature ignores the huge amount of evidence to the contrary.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • CA Liberal

      I am gay and I am not a thief or a murder. Being gay is not a crime. I don't hurt anybody by being gay. I was in a straight marriage for 10 years. Had 3 kids. Love them and they love me back. Didn't much care for the marriage though. Nothing to do with my desire for men. It was just a contentious, unhappy marriage. Got divorced and never went back to women. Won't go back to marriage either. But as a human I deserve the rights of other humans and that includes marriage.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      Now, here's a political way of looking at it.

      Republican ideals include a limiting of the government's power for the sake of individual freedoms. But the law in question, drafted and passed by Republicans, limits individual freedoms through government regulation.

      Republican's need to make a choice. Are you inclined to limit government power over individual freedoms? Or are you inclined to limit freedoms in order to impose your own moral structure on others? These are two totally opposing viewpoints, however they are both parts of the core platform of Republican ideals.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Bill Miller: You just violated the Laws of Reasoning. You recklessly took your cerebral cortex and employed it to generate a message that is inconsistent with reality. Please respect your evolved or God-given (as you prefer) brain.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • MM

      "I attempted to terminate a gay employee who was hitting on three of my married male employees, causing one of them to quit, and found that gay employees have far more rights than stright employees."

      I suspect you're lying. What rights in particular are you talking about?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • The Choobs

      I don't recall seeing ANY marriages on Wild Kingdom. Marriage itself (not pair bonding, but commitment ceremonies and legalities, etc.) is not "natural"–it is a man-made convention. And guess what? Mankind can change its conventions anytime we want to. Especially when those conventions are antiquated, bigoted, and unfair.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • bam

      bigots always use illogical things to try and find logical reasons to be bigots.
      george wmd bush pushed that hate law through....

      May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • michele

      marriage is not about man and woman. It is about legalities that come with marriage

      May 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Megan

    Only one thing with that argument Bill... Stealing and murdering both hurt OTHER PEOPLE and infringe upon THEIR rights to hold property/maintain their lives. What in your God's name does having two men (or two women) get married do to YOU that infringes upon YOUR rights as a human being?

    May 31, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • m

      Megan,

      So do we now define what is good by what simply doesn't harm other people? Can we possibly drop the standard of good or right any lower than that?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • photogrrl

      +1000 for Megan's comment! Gay marriage is between two consenting adults. It does NOT affect anyone else so why do people have such a problem with it?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rational

    He's a bigot because he missed a letter?

    If YOU want to speak intelligently, don't be so defensive. Sheesh!

    May 31, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • supercoupe91

      No, he is incompetent because he struggles to spell words correctly. He is a bigot because he is against gay marriage. Crystal clear?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brennon

    An uncontested battle- Hardly a fair fight. We'll see what SCOTUS says....

    May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rabbit One

    look man – i cannot wrap my mind around it – America was founded on religious freedom – therefore why cannot all these religious opponents of gay marriage make space for those who religiously desire it – in other words why cannot we have like tens of thousands of different religious interpretations of life living side by side – even if they disagree

    May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Smart Human

    Keep christians OUT of all decisions! They are simply NOT rational. They are trying to force their ways onto everyone else. DON'T LET THEM!

    May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Rational

      We've heard that before, right before they started burning us alive. Huh. I guess everyone discriminates against someone.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • seebs

      Er, what? The majority of the Christians I know may or may not be particularly rational, but are generally of the opinion that their personal beliefs guide them as to how they should live.

      ... That said, I think the majority of the Christians I know are actively campaigning for legal recognition of gay marriages, because we're from the old-school traditional branches of the faith, and believe that our duty is to speak up for the downtrodden, the outcast, and the strangers in our land.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • bam

      funny how christians and all other religious nutcases somehow claim their 'god' is a bigot by expressing bigotry it supposedly taught them....
      why is this a bigger issue than priests enjoying altar boi juices? I jsut dont get how all these bigots hate on gays so much but are ok with their almighty christian taliban clerics doing gay acts with under age altar bois.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Robert

    Sad Day in America. This is part of the reason we have become such an unruly people. We have no morals. Think about it. Everyone only cares about what someone can do for them and not what they can do to help.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Val

      A sad day in America? I guess you must have been really bummed out when black people didn't have to sit in the back of the bus or drink from seperate water fountains, huh?

      If you can't handle equality, then YOU are the problem. not those seeking equal rights under the law.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Robert, Kindly tell me what is immoral about 2 people getting married...

      May 31, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • seebs

      What are you talking about? I've thought a lot about what I can do to help. What I can do to help is campaign for people to be given the same rights and privileges everyone else gets.

      There is a lot more to morality than worrying about what consenting adults do with the areas the bathing suit covers. Try starting with compassion and justice. Go feed some hungry people or something. Seriously, try it! It works.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Shadowflash1522

      On the contrary, as a straight person who supports gay marriage I think we can definitively say this is not about me.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • bam

      the sad day is how bigotry is thriving in the USA u know the land of the FREE as long as u r not a muslim or gay.
      people with Morals arent bigots.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mslisac363

    who cares about grammar to talk on a blog? You're to funny... Oh guess you are so use to being judged that you worry about every little thing "Notabigot". U are stupid when you don't have the since to know and understand what the person attempted to spell/say and move on. People like you normally think you're more than you are and annoying to people.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Smart Human

      @mslisac363 "who cares about grammar to talk on a blog? You're to funny..." Umm....obviously, you don't. And it shows.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Imprisoned in america

      i most vehemently AGREE

      May 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Val

    No, he's a bigot because he wants the law to discriminate and take away rights he enjoys from another group of people because of his personal beliefs. The fact he can't spell just makes it easier to show his stupidity.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mark in Omaha

    Religion should not be tax exempt until all have equal rights

    May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • seebs

      Honestly, I think religions shouldn't be tax-exempt period, because tax exemptions make it legally bad if religious groups advocate politically. Meaning that the honest churches aren't speaking openly on topics where they have considered opinions, while the sleazeballs overlook the rules and hope the government overlooks them.

      Better for everyone if the churches just pay their taxes. Render unto caesar...

      May 31, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. LOL

    Megan,

    Don't let common sense and reason push you to arguing with idiots like Mr. Bill

    May 31, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      LOL, this is a good point... :)

      May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick

    Inherent worth and dignity of all people, GBLTT and Straight, intellgent and dumb, encompassing and xenophobic

    May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    Well, Bill, then let "Nature" file a law suit or write a letter to Congress since "Nature" is the victim. Until "Nature" is ready to hire an attorney, perhaps you should take a little time off to work on your anger issues.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hope

    Question? Why does anyone care whom marries whom? I was married to a man who was abusive to both my children and myself...does this make the marriage perfect because he was a man? I know a lady who is with another lady in the most loving respectful relationship and have children together that are just fine. So question, why do you care? what is it anyone else/s busy?

    May 31, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • cw

      Mostly because a lot o people are just ignorant bigots who don't have the capacity to empathize with others they don't understand. I'm tired of trying to reason with these folks myself, at some point the walls go up and if they try to climb over they do so at their own peril. I hate to say this but I'm done talking to brick walls about this. You are exactly right.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • MarylandBill

      I don't care if gay people want to say they are married to each other. I do care if they want to force me to recognize their marriage as being valid. This is not simply a question of live and let live, this is a question of I live and you will validate, not merely tolerate the way I live my life.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. KelKel

    That doesn't even make sense, Bill Miller. If a law states that a specific group of people are not allowed to have the same rights as all other Americans, then yes, it is discriminating. Laws against stealing and killing apply to EVERYONE. It doesn't say that only white people may not steal or only black people may not kill. EVERYONE is held accountable. Therefore, EVERYONE should be allowed to marry whomever they please. And saying that allowing gay marriage is against nature reveals you know absolutely nothing. Because of course gay people choose to be that way. There's no way that could possibly happen naturally, right? Open your eyes and open your mind. This is America. This is a country founded for the sake of freedom. Allowing a gay couple to marry has zero effect on you personally, buddy. Just like every man-woman marriage out there. They don't effect you. It has nothing to do with you. So let it go. Kudos to the appeals court for seeing the truth!

    May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Hahn

      I appreciate your arguments, however, there is no choice in the matter, other than to live your life honestly. Being Gay is a lot like being left handed. Yes, a left handed person can learn to do everything with their right hand, but that doesn't make them right handed. The court's argument is a good one. It has been a historic tradition in the United States that marriage is a state's rights issue and for the federal government to step in and say "only if you do it our way", isn't right.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
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