In 1996, I voted against DOMA because I believed—and still believe—that it was unconstitutional and unconscionable for Congress to actively legislate against gay Americans. I stood on the floor of the Senate to implore my colleagues to reject this bill. From the Senate floor, I argued that this legislation was wrong, “because not only is it meant to divide Americans, but it is fundamentally unconstitutional, regardless of your views.
What is the rational basis for laws that deprive gay and lesbian couples of the right to wed? The arguments that have emerged so far — that same-sex marriage is bad for child-rearing and that it damages heterosexual unions — fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. A judge in Massachusetts recognized this in a case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act; now the judge in the lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 should do the same.
A key part of a law denying married gay couples federal benefits has been thrown out the window in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage. The ball now lies in the White House’s court, which must carefully calculate the next move by an administration that has faced accusations it has not vigorously defended the law of the land.
Today, in the cases Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, which challenge the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), Judge Joseph Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.
A statement from Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights:
“We are thrilled that the federal district court in Massachusetts has held that the discriminatory so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ is unconstitutional. The judge rightly concluded that there is no legitimate reason for the federal government to prevent people who are legally married to a same-sex spouse from receiving benefits that are available to all other married couples. The court recognized that DOMA not only violates the constitutional rights of same-sex married couples, but it also unconstitutionally penalizes states that recognize same-sex marriage by denying them federal funding for public benefits provided to those couples. We extend our warmest congratulations and thanks to our colleagues at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and to our dedicated allies in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, for the tremendous victories they achieved today.”
Last week, Congress took a historic step toward undoing government discrimination against lesbian and gay Americans. In a resounding and bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives by 234-194 authorized repeal of military discrimination — trivialized by its common name, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Massachusetts attorney general asked a judge Wednesday to strike down a federal gay marriage ban, arguing it interferes with the right of states to define marriage and have those marriages acknowledged by the federal government.
A lawyer for 17 gays and lesbians who wed in Massachusetts urged a federal judge yesterday to strike down the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman, calling it an unconstitutional intrusion on a matter previously left to states.
Six years after Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, a group of married same-sex couples will be in federal court in Boston on Thursday, arguing that their marriages should also be recognized by the federal government.