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May 31, 2012

DOMA Decision: Unconstitutional And Bound For SCOTUS

Court rules federal law unconstitutionally burdens both states and same-sex couples.

A federal appeals court ruled today that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Massachusetts, said that DOMA imposes a burden on both states and couples without a legitimate federal purpose. The decision is expected to be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.

According to the court decision, DOMA affects more than 1,000 references to marriage in federal laws. As a result, same-sex couples who are married in U.S. states are denied substantial benefits from the federal government. Same-sex couples cannot file joint federal tax returns. Spouses cannot collect Social Security survivor benefits. Federal employees cannot share their health insurance with their spouses.

The First Circuit ruled that the burden placed on the more than 100,000 same-sex couples could not be justified. It rejected the argument that the underlying purpose of DOMA was “hostility toward homosexuality.” Support for traditional marriage, said the Court, did not mean moral disapproval of same-sex couples.

“Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held,” the court said.

Morality, too, was not a legitimate reason to define federal marriage as the union between one man and one woman. When passing DOMA, Congress said, “Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”

The First Circuit cited the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. The Lawrence opinion said that morality was an insufficient justification for regulating homosexuality.

The First Circuit said that if the goal of DOMA was to strengthen and protect heterosexual marriage, then DOMA was a “poor remedy” to the problem. It ruled that Congress failed to show “any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage.”

The decision is limited to the constitutionality of DOMA and avoids broader claims that same-sex couples have a right to marry in any state. Rather, the court said that DOMA violates federalism by interfering in the choices of both same-sex couples and the states that grant them marriages.

The judges acknowledges that the principles in case, including federalism, civil rights, and congressional authority, are difficult to untangle and that “only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.”

“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 First Circuit wrote. “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 (and even if it approves the result will formulate its own explanation).”

DOMA will remain in effect until the Supreme Court decides whether to review the decision.

The opinion was issued by a three-judge panel from the First Circuit. Michael Boudin, nominated by President George H. W. Bush, wrote the unanimous decision; the other two judges were chief judge Sandra L. Lynch (Clinton nominee) and Juan R. Torruella (Reagan nominee).

Comments

We've known for years that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is transparently unconstitutional, since it sets up differing legal standards for Gay and Straight couples in violation of the 14th Amendment. And whereas a Straight marriage is honored in all 50 states, DOMA lets states ignore Gay marriages, thus violating the "Full Faith & Credit" clause of the Constitution.

Ultimately the Supreme Court is going to have to take up this issue, however reluctantly, and I'm confident that they will determine that there is no constitutional justification for denying law abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the exact same legal benefits and protections that Straight couples have always taken for granted. Even Antonin Scalia has been quoted as saying DOMA is "probably unconstitutional."

It is amazing to me how our country founded on principles of religious freedom to worship
God FREE from persecution by government, has been eroded away over the years. I know there is a thread to pull at because the word "marriage" is not specifically stated or defined in the Constitution. And since we've become a nation of one that aims to please everyone and turn democratic freedom into "personal" freedom to engage in any imooralty a citizen chooses and be free to do so under the banner of 'freedom.'

The arguement by defending marriage to heterosexual couples (1 man and 1 woman) leading to depriving homosexual couples of "freedom and rights" enjoyed by the heterosexual couple is true, but why are we challenging it. I know it is said you can't legislate morality, but do we really need some law to say it is wrong for 2 men or 2 women to be married. It is NOT NATURAL affection or use of their bodies to be itnimat the way God or Intelligence designed. We could use the same "rights deprived" arguement for separating murderers from society, but we all know that is for the good of society--pure and good faith. Likewise DOMA must be allowed to remain to maintain the natural marriage relationship and societal balance. Give homosexuals 'lovers' access to each others Social Security, estate, whatever, just don't give them the prestige of "marriage". That must be preserved for the union of 1 man and 1 woman.

Tradition in America is basically a hate fest. Native American, African Americans, Latino Americans (Oops, I meant Native Americans) Women and now Gays have the same rights and responsibilities as white men. WOW! Who would have believed it. It's morning in America.

PS: Love this highest commandment. I think this Jewish guy said that, somewhere. :)

DOMA is not unconstitutional until SCOTUS says so. But undeniably homosexual behavior and by extension gay marriage is unbiblical.

Dan, it doesn't matter whether gay marriage is unbiblical by someone's standards. The Constitution is the core document of this nation's policies, not the Bible. Marriage is no longer a religious institution anyway. It's a social institution wherein anyone of any religious persuasion -- including no religion -- can be legally married. If two straight atheists can be wed in a courtroom ceremony with no religious trappings, and that marriage is considered just as legally valid as one held in a church, there is no basis in American society for denying gays the right to marry. The Bible simply does not apply to the institution of marriage, except as a personal extension of believers' marriages. Besides, half of Christian marriages end in divorce, so it's obvious that a huge number of Christians who want to deny marriage to gays are just being bigoted; they clearly don't value marriage enough in their own lives.

All laws are based on morality in some way. Extending the idea that "morality was an insufficient justification" to its logical conclusion means that nothing can be determined as legally immoral. One could just as easily say that robbery and murder cannot be prohibited because they are based on morality.

There is no constitutional parameter that gives the court leeway to declare a law unconstitutional because they think it "imposes a burden on both states and couples without a legitimate federal purpose." This is nonsense. Opinions on gay marriage are an independent discussion from this. What happened was that the court declared a law constitutionally illegal simply because they didn't like it.

TSJ - SCOTUS has not ruled on gay marriage yet. Historically and traditionally Americans have always viewed homosexuality as a perversion. Only since 1973 has the atheistic/agnostic psychiatric community decided homosexuality was not a perversion. But who put them in charge of defining what is moral and what is immoral? Now, if you can't tell what is wrong or not at least go to the CDC and look at their fact sheets about the dangers of men having sex with men. Homosexual behavior is a public health care nightmare. And just based on those facts alone should be enough info to convince you of why legalizing, legitimizing, and normalizing same sex marriage is not a good idea. And have you given any thought to the unintended consequences of legalizing same sex marriage? What possible reasons, then, do you have for not allowing polygamy or any other arrangements? For example, given your logic why shouldn't a man be able to marry his adult and consenting daughter?

Christians, a vote for Barack Obama TS a vote for legalized gay marriage, and all of its negative consequences.

It's difficult to have to say this, but Obama is deceived on this issue, and he prefers it that way. He rejects the clear testimony of Scripture.

November may well be the last opportunity American Christians will have, to buy some time and postpone God's judgment on a nation that has clearly forgotten God.

Please consider voting AGAINST Barack H. Obama. Assuming it's not too late already, of course.

"November may well be the last opportunity American Christians will have, to buy some time and postpone God's judgment on a nation that has clearly forgotten God."

So, in your mind, the centuries-long institution of slavery wasn't enough to incur God's judgment on this nation, but legalizing gay marriage would be the last straw?

And do you honestly think that God's judgment rides on the outcome of a political election? Would Sodom and Gomorrah have been spared if the Republican party had been around to represent them?

Actually, Sam, America reaped a terrible judgment of civil war as a result of its acceptance of the slavery horror show. That costly war that our nation is not immune from God's judgment.

Abolitionists like the Grimke sisters pointed out multiple Biblical violations regarding slavery, and tried to warn this nation about what was brewing. But America didn't listen.

And now Barack Obama has "evolved" into thinking that America can get away with legalizing Sodom and Gomorrah. He and his gay-activist pals think that America can get a free pass from God on this tragic and sinful choice, no matter what the Bible says.

History, however, suggests otherwise. Our nation is in deep trouble. Re-electing Obama would likely seal the deal. So Christians have a choice to make, come November.

The Constitution is the guiding and foundational basis of our legal system -- the holybooks of religious sects are legally meaningless, as they should be. Thus it doesn't matter at all what the Bible says or what its adherents believe or claim it says -- the law simply has no interest in religious beliefs or ceremonies or rituals.

And legal marriage is entirely the province of the secular state. Religious ceremonies, such as weddings, carry no legal status or authority. The only signifier of legal marriage is a marriage license from the state.

To give the idea that our government is not to pass laws based upon moral convictions is preposterous. Morality is who we are as human beings and defines everything we as individuals do. It is impossible to separate the two. To be human is to be a moral being. Right and wrong is not something that individuals define. The universal moral law is defined by God quite separate from our idea of right and wrong. If we think we have made it our right and freedom to make our own moral standards, we might just as well say that each individual in our society has the right to decide what everyone else around is doing is right or wrong. Then, to go a step further, be judge and jury and execute punishment on them when they do “wrong” as defined by us.
We don’t want others to impose their morals on us, but let them violate our morals and we get angry. Is that not us imposing our morals on them? And then, when we address their violations of our moral codes, to what universal moral rule do we refer to, the moral law according to us?
Our governments pass laws to “clarify” or “define” what it “believes” is right or wrong. It is done with “conviction”. Is that not moral judgment? And, by the way, what universal moral code are they using as a standard to measure by?

If the intent of this legal maneuver is to make Federal tax and social security benefits, and insurance coverage, etc. easier to obtain for anyone who says they are a couple, then this opens the door for anyone to so. Just go to the local authority for a license and presto, you can take advantage of all of the benefits only provided to "married couples". And while we are at it, why not make it easier for heterosexual couples who want to live in the same house, but not be married in the traditional way, get the same benefits; or, why not some friends who are rooming together do the same. At some point, someone in this group or someone I haven’t mentioned yet, will come forward and claim undue hardship in getting “married status” with the government. Which of these groups do we want to alienate and which do we want to cater to? Or do we want to cater to any of them? What is really our goal here?

When Billy Graham used to have crusades, he is reported to have exclaimed, in consideration of the extent of sinfulness rampant in America, "If God does not judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah" or words to that effect. And this took place long before the Obama administration. By what logic is there a link to the judgement of god simply because of what the president may have done?
The mission of the church given by its founder is to preach the good news. By what logic is a law designed to prevent same-sex marriage going to defend marriage? Marriage is not defended by fighting to pass laws against same-sex marriage, marriage is defended by the actions of those who are married in terms of living out the joys of marriage as a demonstration to others. Preach the gospel and live the gospel are the ways in which the good news can spread effectively, without enlisting the government in passing laws against what is considered "sinful". As long as our laws do not prevent us from loving justice and doing mercy, and walking with God, we have all the religious freedom that we need.

Preach it, Welby Warner!