Thursday, April 5, 2012

DOMA Appears In Federal Appeals Court

A federal appeals court panel heard arguments on whether to uphold a lower court’s finding that a section of the 1996 law banning federal recognition of gay marriage is unconstitutional on Wednesday. The case is the first historic challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) to reach a federal appeals court. In July 2010 Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the United States District Court in Boston sided with the plaintiffs in 2 separate cases brought by the state Attorney General Martha Coakley & the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). This case is about the unconstitutionality of DOMA which denies federal benefits like Social Security survivors’ payments & the right to file taxes jointly for legally married same-gender couples, which violates our equal protection rights. In the case brought by Coakley, Judge Tauro found in 2010 that DOMA forces the state to discriminate against gay couples who are legally married under state law in order for the commonwealth to receive federal money for certain programs. GLAD’s case is focused more narrowly on section 3 of DOMA for equal protection as applied to federal benefits. In that case, Judge Tauro agreed in 2010 that the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution by denying benefits to one class of married couples gay couples but not others. Since Obama decided not to appeal the decision the House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group hired Paul D. Clement, a former United States solicitor general, to argue the appeal. Mary Bonauto, who argued on behalf of GLAD said that “the central question is what federal interest is served in singling out only same-sex marriages” as invalid. We believe the Defense of Marriage Act is an irrational, arbitrary classification of gay people for its own sake and not for any other purpose.” Maura Healey, the assistant attorney general who argued on behalf of Coakley, told the panel that DOMA requires Massachusetts “to live with 2 distinct & unequal forms of marriage. This is a burden that Congress has imposed on Massachusetts simply because it doesn’t like the fact that gay people are getting married.” The 3 judges on the panel directed most of their questions at the opposition. The judges, Juan Torruella, Michael Boudin & Sandra Lynch, the First Circuit’s chief judge were appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, the elder George Bush & Bill Clinton. Afterward, Coakley said she could not make predictions based on the judges’ questions but added: “When you look at, to me, the thinness of the legal argument on the other side & really the emotional & real fact-based arguments made by the plaintiffs, I’m confident that Judge Tauro will be upheld.” Let’s hope so…..Updates to Come…:)
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