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. Raf SF

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of United States of America....

    ...One nation under god indevisable and justice for all.

    You here that bigots, it's justice for all. Not blacks, whites, gays, straights, triangles rectangles...ALL

    May 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven

      Agreed! But you can take out the "under God" part. That was only added to the lyrics in the 50's, and not a part of the original song.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frowny face

      try that reasonable argument with the religious today, if they don't have an aneurism, they will babble on with useless phrases containing god, country, founded and rights an unimaginable amount of times

      June 1, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • P Kokke

      And "under God" was added in the 50's by Eisenhower because the Soviet Union was promoting Athieism. We must be tolerant and not so judgemental.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeffrey


    How does tolerance of gay people hurt society? Well, nobody will admit it, but the nation needs a ready supply of mothers and soldiers. In the recent past this need is turning into its opposite, hence the relaxation of gender discipline. Gender discipline is the totalitarianism no one likes to talk about. Not putting a heavy emphasis on motherhood and military duty, at a certain stage of history, makes a society vulnerable to the ones that do. With 7 billion people, high-tech drones and an impossibility of all out war since 1945, it's not such a big deal anymore.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eric

    The slippery slope argument is a very weak one. Giving women the right to vote didn't result in us giving voting rights to dogs, or giving men 2 votes, or letting children vote. However, it can be argued that thanks to Citizens United a billionaire effectively has far more influence in determining the outcome of elections than millions of voters.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |

    Now lets go after the tax codes that are bissed against the non married, childless individuals.
    They discriminate agains the ones who choose not to contribute to over populating the planet and causeing a drain upon our resources
    The country was gounded upon the sovereignty of the individual, let each imdividual pay their individual income tax.
    No more joint filings, or deductions goro their nonproducing off spring.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • :P

      And what of an infertile couple/couple that chooses not to have children who simply wants to simplify their shared finances? A non-married person does not need that, so they are not being denied rights.

      Sure I agree that "no-child credits" should be considered in Congress, and maybe the marriage credits are excessive for families where both spouses make a living wage (note the "both"), but essentially calling all married folks child-poopers is a bit extreme.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |

    Marriage is not a Right, you need government permission

    May 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frowny face

      Rrights are just an idea. They do not exist. Privilege is what your looking for.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
    One nation under G_d? I guess not. Gays are the end result of a male sperm meeting with womans egg. Yes. That's right. Every gay "has a mother and a father", to thank for thier existence. Also if you press on and read The Book of Exodus, who is it the gays should honor as one of G_ds original Ten Commandments handed down to Moses?
    Gays too, are like the 90% of people in this world, that strive to be good persons, but somehow, they just don't get it. 😉

    May 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • :P

      How about 100%? If you're really a man of G_d that's what you'd believe.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • :P

      "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24

      May 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • madmaninthemiddle

      According to Leviticus, it is also an abomination to touch the skin of a pig. I guess playing football as a kid (before all the balls where synthetic) made me unclean.

      June 2, 2012 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    This court decision in Boston was correct. Let's see how far progress can get.
    BTW, since "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, I have never recited those extra words in the Pledge.
    Down with DOMA.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    I have not the faintest interest in Moses, his laws, or anything in Leviticus.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Sorry JIF...don't mean to bore you.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ♚Mmmmm♛

    ...the 3-panel judges are three blind mice...

    June 1, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jay

    so is your name, sicko

    June 1, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. Len

    Equality or the distruction of family values? I'll stick with family values. This will be destructive to our nation.

    June 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • madmaninthemiddle

      So much for equal protection under the law. Any other bedrock principle you find disturbing? Freedom of Speech? Rights to a fair trial? Anything that rocks your Leave it to Beaver world, we'll just toss it.

      June 2, 2012 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. icon download

    I am am excited too with this question where I can find more information on this question?

    November 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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