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July 8, 2010

Equal Protection Means Just That

by at 5:28 pm.

In two different cases, a federal judge today ruled that part of DOMA was unconstitutional - specifically, the fact that DOMA creates two different classes of people in states like Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal, and violates the equal protection and the due process clauses. It appears to be pretty cut and dry, and the judge came back with his verdicts fairly quickly:

GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto told Tauro that DOMA constitutes a “classic equal protection” violation, by taking one class of married people in Massachusetts and dividing it into two. One class, she noted, gets federal benefits, the other does not. Just as the federal government cannot take the word “person” and say it means only Caucasians or only women, said Bonauto, it should not be able to take the word “marriage” and say it means only heterosexual couples.
[…]
Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, told Judge Tauro that Section 3 of DOMA — the section that limits the definition of marriage for federal benefits to straight couples — violates the state’s right under the federal constitution to sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.

It obviously will be appealed by the bigots, so this is one to watch. But for right now, this is a pretty nice victory for equality folks!

(Link via the Phoenix’s David Bernstein’s facebook status.)

8 Responses to “Equal Protection Means Just That”

  1. Shawn Says:

    I just read the story myself, and I see it as a validation of state’s rights.. Article 10.. a step in the right direction for once.

  2. Shawn Says:

    that’s Amendment 10

  3. Christopher Says:

    Don’t hang too much on the 10th amendment as that could just as easily cut the other way. Also, the Justice Department almost always defends duly enacted law against constitutional challenges, so expect an appeal. In this case they could argue that they are not telling the states how to define marriage, but at the same time Uncle Sam has its own right to determine how its own benefits are applied. I think equal protection is a much stronger case and I wish a ruling would also be rendered on full faith and credit such that even states that don’t allow such marriages themselves have to at least recognize the validity of those solemnized in other states.

  4. joe from Lowell Says:

    The Obama administration really tanked their “defense” of this law.

    They basically conceded that all of the arguments its supporters have been making in favor of it are bogus, acknowledged that it discriminates, and made up two placeholder arguments - “Pretty please defer to Congress on this novel issue,” and “The federal government has a compelling interest in nationally-uniform marriage laws,” - both of which were complete roadkill.

    Good for them.

  5. joe from Lowell Says:

    “I just read the story myself, and I see it as a validation of state’s rights.. Article 10.. a step in the right direction for once…Don’t hang too much on the 10th amendment as that could just as easily cut the other way.”

    The field of marriage law is one where there has long been a particular tolerance at the federal level of a diversity in state law. As the judgement says, in New Hampshire, a 13-year-old girl can marry a 14-year-old boy if they have the parents’ permission, and the feds will recognize the marriage.

    So, it could cut the other way if the federal government felt it wanted to impose gay marriage on every state across the country, but that hardly seems like the biggest challenge the pro-equality forces are up against. The feds can’t invalidate state laws that recognize gay marriage! Yay!

    This is an unequivocal win.

  6. Lynne Says:

    Eventually this whole debate leads to a constitutional amendment, I think. Like voting rights for women or African Americans.

    Until then, I’ll take having federal benefits being applied where gay marriage is legal.

  7. joe from Lowell Says:

    I don’t think an amendment will ever happen.

    I think it will go state by state, any people in 60 years will be shaking their heads that Wyoming makes gay people cross the state line and get married in Idaho, before recognizing their licenses.

  8. Shawn Says:

    “I’ll take having federal benefits being applied where gay marriage is legal.”

    And I don’t think you’ll ever see another benefit based on marriage now either.

    Most “benefits” were designed to encourage stable families to ease the raising of children.

    As usual, the government attempt to manipulate society via regulation and tax code failed miserably.

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