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. Imprisoned in america

    There is only one God and he is the law. HE defined marriage not man. Sin is sin and although not a crime in the land but a crime against nature. If we truly believe this who are you to tell me that i can't believe something? Who's the bigot now?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darw1n

      Man defined god. You are such a fool

      May 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @IMPRISON:"There is only one God and he is the law"
      if there is only one god then why is it he in the very same statement said put no god before me? you see how much of an idiot you seem when you quote scripture and still get it wrong? ROFLMFAO!!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ben

    The only "Slippery slope" in this, is that defining marriage between one man and one woman will lead to LEGAL definitions, subject to interpretation, of "man" and "woman".

    May 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ElmerGantry

    Bravo WASP,

    Well stated and deserves reposting.
    " 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 |

    It's amazing how people think they can simply choose to believe and think they can fool an all-knowing, all-seeing, and ever present god into thinking that they really believe as opposed to saying they believe

    Wanting to believe is not a valid reason for believing!

    May 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @elmer: thanks i can only hold hope for america.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. me

    Really? That's your whole take on the civil rights issues of the day? Is your picture located directly next to the definition of 'obtuse'?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Danny

    For those who say that there is no base for stating that a child needs a mom and dad and not 2 moms or 2 dads: There is a reason why only a man and a woman can produce a baby!

    Also, a woman cannot teach a boy to do man things and a man cannot teach a gilr to do women things. Women and mens' minds are different no matter the arguement.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • QS

      If only ignorance were physically painful, perhaps people would overcome it much quicker.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      Would you care to elaborate on what "man things" and "woman things" are?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lisa

    GRAMMAR not grammer, please learn that little rule. Thanks

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

    There we go. People who can't have kids shouldn't be able to get married.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alex

    @QS my thoughts exactly

    May 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ben

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
    The End.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ami

    @Danny, what does producing a baby have to do with marriage? You do realize babies are born out of wedlock, right? Also, there are marriages with no children. Are these marriages invalid because they have no one to teach their 'man' and 'woman' skills to?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ryan


    That still doesn't explain who single mothers raise "normal" children. Guess what two mothers will probably have a brother or uncle or some other male figure in their lives. I disagree that women and men teach different things, but saying your right couldn't another male figure in that child's life do that?

    So can you explain what a woman cannot explain to a child that a man can? Please give me an example or your argument holds no ground, which I already know.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerutha

      He can't give a legitimate answer because his reasoning is soley based on hate.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      Good luck with your points of view. I hold to mine and you hold to yours.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    I want to call my car a motorcycle, it isn't fair to my car that my motorcycle can use the hov lane but my car can't, so I want everyone to call my car a motorcycle, then I can drive it in the hov lane. THAT is how inane this argument is! 2 men is not a marriage, 2 women is not a marriage, one man and 2 wowen is not a marriage, it is one man and one woman, period. The courts will eventually say it has to be called a marriage, just like they could say my car can be called a motorcycle, but that doesn't make it so.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Megan

    To anyone who wants to play the "but they can't procreate!" card: Who in the world is saying EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE GAY? The only way that's even remotely an issue is if every single person in the world decided to be gay. And, lets face it, with science being what it is today it'd STILL be possible to have children. So I really don't understand where that's coming from. I mean, I'm a female who has no intentions of ever having a baby. Does that make me some kind of wasted life, or monster, because I choose not to procreate? Should I just go ahead and decide to be a lesbian (because we all know that's how THAT works)?

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

      @Megan, I agree. It also seems they assume gay people are infertile and have not heard of artificial insemination and surrogates.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. WASP

    @ohsole: your predjustice is so disgusting it's funny. liberals are for the advancement of mankind, conservatives as the name implies hate change. an unborn child can only be unnaturally aborted prior to 22-23 weeks when the female body could naturally abort it any way. plus i love you anti-abortion freaks. please pass a law where your mother,sister, niece, aunt, cousin can be rap-ed and forced to carry that child to term risking her life to bring that child into this world. that's fair isn't it? someone rap-es your mother while america has anti-abortion laws, whom can you blame when she dies during delivery? you going to blame us liberals again; maybe shake your fist at the "god" that wrote that horrid book of yours, or will you blame yourself for pushing for a law that made your mother carry that ra-pe-child? people like you truly make me feel disgusted!

    May 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    Once we start down this road there is no ending it. So, what's next? A woman marries two men? Three men marry each other? A man marries a boy? Where does it end? Most Americans don't believe this country will not be in existence in 100 years. I wonder why?

    May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerutha

      They thought that about giving all men who don't own property the right to vote. Women the right to vote, ending slavery, african-americans the right to vote.....America is a continuing experiment in liberty. All Socities go through change. Hate has no place in this country anymore.....

      May 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotBuyingIt

      Maybe we should repeal all those voting rights too! After all, by allowing women, minorities, and non-landowners the right to vote we were just openning it up for trees and pets to vote!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
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