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BREAKING: Federal Judge Rules DOMA Unconstitutional

July 9, 2010

It’s rare that I receive an email from Brian Brown, the President of the National Organization for Marriage, with a subject line that doesn’t make my heart sink.  In fact, this one made me cheer.

BREAKING NEWS: Boston Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA!

Better yet?  This judge, who will undoubtedly be called an activist liberal, was appointed by Richard Nixon.

For once, Brown is remotely accurate.  For those who are legally inclined, the ruling is here [.pdf].  For the rest of us, Lisa Keen’s recap is here.

In one challenge brought by the state of Massachusetts, Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it passed DOMA and took from the states decisions concerning which couples can be considered married. In the other, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, he ruled DOMA violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Tauro considered whether the federal law’s definition of marriage — one man and one woman — violates state sovereignty by treating some couples with Massachusetts’ marriage licenses differently than others. In Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a gay legal group, asked Tauro to consider whether DOMA violates the right of eight same-sex couples to equal protection of the law…

You may recall a bit of buzz when Senator Kerry supported the challenge from Attorney General Coakley.  The background on the GLAD case is here.  This effort was led by Mary Bonauto, who I’ve praised before.  Here’s the key point fo the challenge:

Section 3 of DOMA applies to the federal government only. It overrides a state’s determination that a same-sex couple is married and says that they are not married for purposes of all federal laws and programs, even though the federal government has always deferred to state determinations of marital status. Under this law, “the word ‘marriage’ means only the legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” This law requires all federal departments and agencies to disrespect the valid state-licensed marriages of same-sex couples but not other married couples. As a result, only married same-sex couples are denied all rights, protections and responsibilities associated with marriage at the federal level [my note: i.e. tax benefits].

And as a slight digression from the excitement here, check out my favorite line from Brown’s email:

Despite the explicit language in DOMA that the law was designed to protect children’s right to their mothers and fathers, the judge disavowed that DOMA has anything to do with responsible procreation.

“Responsible procreation.”  Not sure what that is.  Are two loving individuals who wait to make a conscious effort to have children and raise them engaging in “responsible procreation?”  Or only two people who can produce a child biologically–regardless of their intent to start a family or even see their partner again?  If you want to address “responsible procreation,” don’t come after two people who are making a commitment to each other and jumping through hoops to have children.  Try targeting one night stands or deadbeat dads.

Here’s the quote from the judge’s ruling, via The Family Equality Council, that addresses parenting:

A consensus has developed among the medical, psychological, and social welfare communities that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. Denying their parents federal benefits of marriage, said the court, “prevent[s] children of same-sex couples from enjoying the immeasurable advantages that flow from the assurance of a stable family structure.

Like all this progress?  Sign the Freedom to Marry Pledge here.

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