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. johng

    How many years can i go back an admen my taxes !

    May 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Craig Tordsen

    Marriage is a contract between two people. A civil contract with rules defined by the state. Marriage is also a religious contract with rules defined by the religion. In the United States separation between church and state is one of our most basic rules. Let government protect the rights of the people. God can deal with their soul.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • NFL1

      AMEN...and I love the poster who also commented that marriage is till death do us part, why aren't they making new laws to uphold this tradition throughout history of marriage??

      May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alex

    Correction @Mike, "marriage" is technically just a receipt

    May 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alex

    it's amazing how many people insult religion and then call the religious people bigotsi

    May 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I have no tolerance for groups that practice hate.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Does that give you a right to then impose your beliiefs on another? So what, they're insulting you... the church (in all forms) is to blame for the negative perception outsiders have of it. Too many people assuming God's voice just to put down another human being for doing their own thing – even when it's not physically harming another.

      Get over the whole "we're under attack" crap. Religion has done plenty of attacking on "non-religious" types for centuries.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Navin

    God have mercy on all of us. This new ideology is killing the concept of Marriage. This cannot be term as marriage this is completely opposite to normal marriage contradicts all laws of marriage.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ben

    @Mike, re-read your Old Testament. Marriage was never about "One" and "one", except for Adam and Eve, because they were the only two people at the time. Polygamy was legal until Abraham Lincoln. Marriage for love was an idea that didn't gain popularity until the Renaissance.
    So, it's okay to redefine marriage, so long as it's on your terms?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • seebs

      For that matter, when did we change "marriage" to require consent from the female partner? That's a pretty big change from tradition... :)

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

    So can we all agree that only white straight able-bodied males have to pay taxes? I mean, what's the point of paying anything if you're not getting the same results?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EF

    It is only a matter of time; if it's OK for a man to marry a man, then how can the Feds or Courts say polygamy is wrong?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I would have no problem with a man having several wives. If they are all consenting and can figure out a way to make it work in a legal sense in situations of divorce and the like. Divorce proceedings are tricky enough but adding more than two people to the mix, might get a tad bit complicated.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      polygamy isn't legal for straight couples. So it's not legal for Gay couples. If polygamy becomes legal for straight couples, it should also be extended to gay couples... so you're missing the point. It's about having the same rights, not about necessarily what the right is.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Non-sequitir – that's why EF. Of course, I have little belief that you'll recognize the flaw in your thinking, but fear of letting gay people marry is just a little too theocratic to me. It doesn't bother me that they allow it, and I don't feel it's threatening anyone beyond the power freaks who get off on telling people how to live their lives.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • random

      They can't say it's wrong, but they can say it is not legally recognized. Legal marriage in the US is an equal partnership. A partnership of more than two cannot be equal.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMR

      The Bible says Polygamy is okay – so what's your problem?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kenny of salt

    The Federal Gov't does not issue marriage licenses, therefore it is not in a position to dictate the terms of the contracts represented by them. It is a state issue and should remain so. The ruling is correct – so speaks Kenny.
    Peace, my brothers!

    May 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Alex

    Um, lesser @alex: insulting and criticizing is not the same thing.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stronghold

    People in this country dont want to be guided by rules if such rules dont accommodate to what they think to be right.... marriage has always been defined by a man and a woman. Historically, to which we are new as a country, it has been defined as a marriage between a man and a woman.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      stronghold, you will end up on the wrong side of history. You know marriage used to be a contract to make the woman property of the man right? Is that the way it still is? Oh, the Bible also has many instances of men marrying many women.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • bam

      marriage predates religion.... it was NEVER defined as such....
      religion needs to get out of peoples lives especially the bigotted religions which is essentially all of them.

      how about u explain how an all loving 'god' is telling u to be a bigot?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darw1n

      Wrongs should never be righted? Humanity doesn't grow, improve, admit mistakes and correct them?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • chipndale

      Google "Marriage" goof. It has legal ramifications as well.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wallybird1234

    Marriage is between two white or two black people, no matter what the courts say. You can call something else marriage, but it is not.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darw1n

      This crap doesn't even merit comment...... oh, my bad

      May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • observer

      “As with the women, the poor and the mentally impaired, gays and lesbians have long been the subject of discrimination,’’ as with blacks .... what a curious omission

      May 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • observer

      and you're a racist

      May 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. QS

    Married couples have 1,138 FEDERAL rights, protections and responsibilities that are not recognized for civil unions, such as:

    Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.

    Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or a sick or injured family member.

    Workers' Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.

    Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn't lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.

    ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.

    Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.

    Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.

    Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse's health insurance.

    The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization.

    This is not a state issue.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Gays should totally not have those rights because what they do in the privacy of their own homes is gross.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • rapierpoint

      It appears that particular court disagrees with you. Defining marriage is a state issue.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      Because after all, it's all about the money! This was PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PRICELESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hater

    Stocks gonna go up now.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gramps

    Mit says that marriage is between one man and a woman, and another woman and another woman..........

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

      the mormon version of hijacked marriage

      May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Splash

      Romney does NOT support plural marriage. If you're going to comment at least have the facts before you slam a person's beliefs. It is because of ignorant people like you that the U.S. people judge him solely for his religious beliefs.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
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