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

soundoff (384 Responses)
  1. Alex

    @wallybird1234 Marriage is between one man and how many goats he is willing to part with

    May 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rev TJ Carter

    Well, wait theses judges meet the Master Judge whom they will have to give an account for there actions. I would not want to be in there shoes on that day! Sin is sin and it is not up to the earthly judges to decide what is or isn't. This country is about to face the judgement of God in ways nver seen before in US history. I would not want to be in Obamas shoes either, his judgement will be even greater. This country is about to face the greatest disasters i t has ever seen and I hope a lot of people are right with God when it happens !

    May 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Imprisoned in america


      May 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Good, let God decide. Quit trying to decide for him by discriminating against people.

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

      What century are you living in? Marriage as an insitution has failed without the help of gays.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • jackamus

      You sir are a quack. It's people like you that ruin this country.

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

      I looked through a bunch of law books, then I talked to a bunch of lawyers and experts on legal theory, but I could never find "sin" being what we use to guide the creation of our legal system. Turns out it's actually "logic". Maybe you should try some of that.

      If marriage is an issue of religion, then the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that the US Government must outlaw the use of the word marriage to define the system currently in place. After all, I can get married in a secular courthouse, by a secular justice of the peace, have it be legally binding, and not once will the word "God" be used by anyone involved. Funny how something that doesn't involve your God, my God, or anyone's "religious".

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

      What a crock of parinoid" BS there "Rev" Keep the fear alive within your "flock" remember without the fear, you'd probably lose your audience.. The Bible (and most other religions) are full of the "Be afraid, be very, very afraid"

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

      Rev Carter,

      Whose God are you talking about. My God does not discriminate and he/she will not looks very kindly to people like you.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel in Denver

    It's difficult for me to understand how another marriage affects mine. I have a wonderful marriage and it's not lessened if someone pronounces an apple and an orange as husband and wife.

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

      Well put-I agree 100%

      May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Sure it discriminates against gay couples, just like Boy Scouts for boys and Girl Scouts for girls...Miss Universe padgents for woman....You think its all going to stop with just this, what ever the mind can come up with is going to be ok in just a matter of time...I'm discriminated against, because I am white, work two jobs, and can't get any kind of assistance for my kids college, medical, food allotment, or anything...But all the trash around me do nothing and have it made....But try and get a liberal to see that side of an issue and say its not fair...Isn't going to happen....

    May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Imprisoned in america


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

      And your name may change to Jessica, you lack rational.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pete


    May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. alex

    i personally believe all marriage should be illegal and that people should realize it is their fear of being alone that drives them to make such an ignorant mistake.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Valerie

    Divorce court will be hilarious with these people............

    May 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • chipndale

      Gays have straight people as pop reference humor. Thank for bringing it up.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alex

    @James for a guy with a lot of problems, you sure have enough time to get mad about something that will never affect you.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ohsoIsee

    I see, gays want to get married because of the monetary benefits that simply being married affords? Or maybe it's just about the statement – gays love to make statements right?

    Ya, why not trash what marriage IS, so gays can get more money.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jerutha

      NO! It is about EQUAL rights. You know those rights that you take for granted. We are second class citizens and we are tired of it. Marriage was around LONG before christianity ever existed so you have no claim on the term. Go hide your bigot bags in the closet.....cause you are on the wrong side of history.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • chipndale

      My IQ dropped by 20, just by reading your statement.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Smart Human

    Religious people ruin everything...

    May 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ohsoIsee

      Liberals – lovers of killing children in and out of the womb.

      Funny how most are also Atheists.

      Ya, no thanks I prefer my friends to actually care about people instead of pretending to and throwing it on political debates.

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

      @ohsoIsee, that's ridiculous. Calling liberals baby're ridiculous.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. willy

    Sense this word is used so much you guys might as well know what it means: : bigot – "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance." Now lets define hatred "a very strong feeling of dislike" OK, now for intolerant – "unable or unwilling to endure". Interesting, sounds like more people are bigots then I thought. On both sides. Definitions from merriam-webster . com

    May 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Danny

    Those who live by mans rule will of course call this marriage. Those of us who dont live by mans ruling will not accept this as legit marriage.

    You dont agree with me and I dont agree with you. At the end of time we will see who had it right.

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

      First we'll have to see if there is an end of time

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

      I agree I used to be gay but I changed .

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

      excellent point !

      May 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Wah wah wah don't be a sore loser. Your bigotry has been defeated, as it should be.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      " At the end of time we will see who had it right.
      May 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm"

      so let me get this straight you are only a believer because you are worried about what happens when you die, so you are edging your bet? i truly doubt you are fooling your "god" with that type of action.........but good luck with that. i don't require a reward/punishment system to be a good person and want to help others; makes me wonder about why religious folks require a book to tell them how to be good and still fail at it.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dallas

    Who cares if gay people get married? If they love each other, it shouldn't matter. Kim Kardashian has a 72 day marriage and earns $20 million, but gays can't? Oh ok.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Libertarian

    You folks have it all wrong. What "service" does the government provide by giving you a marriage license? Is the implication that marriage cannot happen without the permission of the state? The correct solution is that the government should recognize ANY marriage. This immediately solves the problem, and prevents those seeking special treatment for being part of a "class". You may say this doesn't solve the problem of benefits, health care, etc, but I point out that a definition of marriage didn't solve it either. Since you still have to define all of the "special cases", take marriage right out of it.

    This is an EXCELLENT lesson in Libertarian thinking. People have an automatic impulse to appeal to a central authority to resolve an issue or decide a matter. That defining separate classes of people (married, gay, black, poor, educated) shortly leads to that class getting unique treatment (better or worse). Would you let the government define who is Christian, who is Muslim, who is a vegetarian, who can do what jobs? Of course not. Why would you let the government decide who is married?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Libertarian

      Correction/typo – the government should not recognize ANY marriage.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • SparkBunny- the colony, tx

      Mostly, legal marriage is necessary to decrease as many lawsuits as possible. Without a legal marriage contract, anybody could sue anybody else for rights to benefits, life insurance, power of attorney, etc. Marriage is essentially a contract entered into by 2 parties with the intention of going through life together as partners. All governments should recognize a contract legally entered. While your comments do come from a good place, and while i do agree with many libertarian views, they are not realistic. People do not like drastic change. It upsets them and makes them fearful. The freedom of this country is based on being able to surround yourself with like-minded people, not force others to think as you do. A politician witnessing to others is just as bad as religions witnessing to "unbelievers".

      May 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SparkBunny- the colony, tx

    I have to admit, even if i don't approve of much of anything any politician does these days, i have to admit i'm proud of Obama for actually taking a logical stand on gay marriage. I don't think that any president has had the balls to take a stand one way or another, and it shows he does not fear alienating a certain group of voters. Bravo for not just giving the usual political non-answer to the question. For politicians against gay marriage, i can't imagine how horrible it would be to be gay and be a friend or relative of them. I couldn't stand personally knowing someone who would so seriously judge me for who i am. And for the record, i'm straight, happily married, and intend to stay that way. Shouldn't others be able to enjoy that even if they're not straight?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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