Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional

by Vanessa Douglas on June 1, 2012

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal law signed by President Clinton in 1996 stating marriage is solely between a man and a woman, and that.  same-sex unions in one state did not have to be acknowledged in another.

At the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, three judges have ruled the law to be unconstitutional, on the grounds that it discriminates against same-sex couples because they are not provided the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

According to The Huffington Post,

The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns

It was also stated that the ruling was kept “narrow”, meaning that the court, which was composed of a panel of three judges, was specifically addressing the section of the law that addresses federal benefits.

“I think lawyers could argue that the arguments are equally applicable to the other sections of the law, but you have to stretch. You have to take those out of the context in which it’s being applied, and I don’t think the court will do that,” said Carl Tobias, a  law professor at the University of Richmond.

The ultimate decision on whether or not the law is considered unconstitutional would lie in the hands of the Supreme Court. It was  stated that the recent ruling could not be enforced until it is passed in the Supreme Court because it would only apply to states “within the circuit, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico.”

Many states passed their own bans on gay marriage after Clinton sign DOMA, North Carolina being one of them. Paul Clement, a Washington, D.C., attorney, defended the law on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. He stated that Congress had a “rational basis” passing DOMA, but it’s not 1996 anymore, and people are starting to change their views. There have been plenty of other states and even countries that have supported same-sex unions, and despite plenty of backlash, our own President (and Vice President) support marriage equality.

More and more people are beginning to reevaluate what marriage might actually mean in today’s society. It is no longer a means to unite and continue bloodlines or for trade or political reasons. We now see marriage as a significant commitment to an individual. The recent support of marriage equality shows us that the definition of marriage goes beyond sex and gender. It is about pledging devotion to an individual, not their physiology.

Check out the official ruling here.

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Vanessa Douglas

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