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. Craig Tordsen

    States make the marriage laws and issue the permits. As long as the laws treat all people equally the federal government does not have any jurisdiction. But when the state does not treat all people equally, federal laws trump.

    The church is exempt from that trump card, not the states. All men (and women) are created equal.

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

    @Imprisoned in america I'm totally bigoted against bigots 😀

    May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ryan

    This whole thing is so dumb. In 20 or so years it will be the same as the Jim Crow laws or women not being able to vote. People are going to look back on history and be like, "wow that generation was messed up." G-ay's will be able to marry in every state in the near future so start getting used to it. Let people live how they please, there is no possible way two g-ay dudes will be able to effect a straight marriage. I keep seeing that argument, but have yet to see a reason why it effects someone marriage. Can someone please explain this to me?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kcufgop

    I moved from Texas due to the continuing erosion of personal freedoms & look forward to my partner's & I ability to live our lives on OUR terms. This court decision further validates our decision was a correct one.

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

    If we really want to preserve marriage and protect its "sacredness", we should have a law that prohibits divorce.

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

      Yeah Straight people have been destorying marriage for decades. High divorce rate,.....have you seen some of these reality shows?? Yeah we are sooo gonna destroy marriage....lawl.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alex

    @Imprisoned in america When did I talk about grammar? And yes, I do hate a lot of people based on if they're ignorant sucks who want to impose their ancient religious beliefs in places where they don't belong.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Danny

    People dont realize the negative effect this has on society when these couples start adopting children. The children themselves need a mom and a dad to teach them things only mom and dad can respectively. This is essential in realizing the negative impact this will have on those children and society. They themselves will one day question why everyone else had a mom and a dad and they had 2 moms or 2 dads. Shame.

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

      You could not be more wrong. There is no proof that gay couples have ANY negative impact on children. If that were the case then straight couples should stop making children gay.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      What can two straight people teach kids that two gay/lesbian people can't?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohsoIsee

      But Danny, it's THEIR RIGHT!

      Liberals have the right to raise kids to be gay – and the right to kill unborn children!

      After all, atheist liberals are the epitome of fine society...

      May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darw1n

      Do you teach your children to discriminate against others who are different? Shame you you Danny

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

      To Danny who wrote: "People dont realize the negative effect this has on society when these couples start adopting children."

      Please, please, please show me the third party reports that supports this thinking. I would think having good parents take orphaned children out of a public facility would be about the best thing possible. And it's pretty bigoted to spout an argument in earnest that says men and women always make a better couple. I've seen some of the worst parenting in the world come from traditional marriages.

      You, sir, sound ridiculous.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      One of the most absurd posts on here. Your comment is based on ignorance not fact. Maybe you need to do a little homework. Please cite where you got your facts. Virtually every credible study proves you wrong. I would also like to point out that maybe you should look at the statistic of how many marriages now end in divorce!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • greenfield

      Single parenthood should be outlawed, according to you. Funny, I have yet to hear about a gay couple who abused their children but stories are RAMPANT about child abuse by straight couples. Shut your ignorant mouth.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      you must be a genius. How about kids who are brought up in a single mother home as i was myself? I graduated college, have a full time job, and i can change the oil of my own car! thank god i had a man around my whole life to teach me that, you POS go kill yourself

      May 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      "They themselves will one day question why everyone else had a mom and a dad and they had 2 moms or 2 dads." Except that studies have shown they are at least as well-adjusted members of society as kids from "traditional" families. Besides, that argument was also used about interracial marriage "oh, the kids will feel like they don't belong" – and yes, some bigots tried to make them feel bad, but now people don't tend to blink twice at interracial kids.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • gregm629

      For those against gay adoptions, is it better to have these kids in group homes with NO parents or to have them adopted by a loving gay couple?

      May 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    The repeal of DOMA is a good thing as it does impinge on the rights of certain people to pursue life liberty and happiness. Now lets hope and pray the the high courts will turn to more important, from my perspective, things like overturning the patriot act etc. etc..

    May 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. joe

    Call yourselves married if you want it really doesn't matter. You may get the government to recognize your disgusting behavior as marriage but it will never be recognized by the church, the people who founded marriage and consider it a sacrament. May be valid in the eyes of a corrupt government but it will never be valid in the eyes of God and that is what matters.
    You may say that I am on the wrong side of history. You know how much that really matters to me. We are all forgotten in history anyway. I'd rather stand for what I believe in then to have the approval of the idiots in this country.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerutha

      I could care less what your ignorant church says. Marriage is not owned by the church. Marriage was a contract for the purchase of a woman long before your religion came around. You don't have to like anything about people who are gay or lesbian. What you can not do is deny them rights based on what YOU think is right. Go crawl back in your hole please.

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

      I'm straight and I couldn't care less if the church recognized my marriage.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Imprisoned in america

    There is only one law. When you die, you will find it. Unfortunately SIN is SIN and Bill is right. Nature is a design by God, just as marriage is.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      There is nothing natural about marriage. However, many instances of hom-ose-xuality are found in nature.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    TXnBud – you win the award for the either the best form of verbal irony EVER or for the least historically educated person EVER.

    Basing it on the following section of your "post."

    "No, religious people don't control anything, nor did they ever...they just spoke common sense as to what happens to a civilization if they were all gay...eventually, they would die out. I mean, who wants to contribute to the demise of a society by not having babies?
    Conversely, there's no better way to build a society than by breeding...and breeding"

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

    @ohsoIsee, doesn't God kill a lot of babies, so God is liberal?

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

    @Danny – what about people with only one, or no parents? Technically, I had a father. I never saw him, because he would rather be drunk. Thinking about the friends my mother had, if she were to have married them, they would have been awesome stepmothers. My mother died when I was 14 from cancer. Not a two parent household. I can form thoughts better than a lot of mother/father kids who witness fighting every day of their lives. Am I automatically a bad person? Or does that just apply to the situation if either parent WERE gay?

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

      This is the tragic flaw in all religious bigots. They ignore the numbers that say divorce is up, infedility is rampant, that single parent homes can succeed, and that freedom of religion is not a tool for oppressing another. The irony, of course, is that divorce and cheating happens because people feel repressed themselves.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      Ben – dont you think your life would have been better if you had both your parents to console you and give you advice? To love and take care of you apart from the mistakes that we can all commit?

      No one said you are a bad person, simply a child NEEDS a mom and a dad. When so, the probabilities are greater that they will be better off in many ways.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    you are probably typing words that set off cnn's filter and automatically keeps it from posting. If you are saying the word hom-ose-xual it won't let your post go through. If you are saying a word that contains a naughty word it won't get posted either. For instance, you can't type the word const-itution because it contains the word t-i-t.

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

      Thanks for that tip. I didn't make the connection – but now I realize that every time I mention the Const – itution it gets blocked. How ridiculous. Not a very sophisticated system.

      June 2, 2012 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ryan

    Seriously man... Seriously? Your argument makes no sense. "The children themselves need a mom and a dad to teach them things only mom and dad can respectively." So being a single mother or father should be outlawed? Also, no mother and father combo has ever done anything wrong? I work in a school in DC and can tell you that there are many mother and father combos who teacher their children nothing positive.

    Bottom Line: There are good parents and there are bad parents, some gay some straight some single parents.

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

      Thank you!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
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