Berman & Asbel, LLP

Another Fed. Judge Finds DOMA Unconstitutional

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) took another hit from a federal judge on Wednesday.  A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that DOMA violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.  Click here to read a New York Times article about the case. In this latest case, a female staff lawyer working at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (the same court which just ruled California Proposition 8 unconstitutional), had married her longtime female partner during the brief period when same-sex marriages were permitted in California before Proposition 8 was approved.  This couple is thus legally married under California law.  The plaintiff in the case sought to add her wife for coverage under the health insurance plan she has through her job.  Her request was denied based upon DOMA defining, for federal government purposes, that a marriage is only between a man and a woman.  In this ruling, the federal district judge ruled that DOMA as applied in this case violates the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

This is not the first time that DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional.  In 2010, two rulings in a federal court in Massachusetts held DOMA unconstitutional.  In one case, the court held that DOMA violated the Equal Protection clause and also lacked any rational relationship to the government programs which were being affected by the law.  In the other case, the court ruled that DOMA intruded upon the state sovereign power of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - marriage being a matter traditionally regulated by states, not the federal government.  Those cases are on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.

Also note that the Obama Administration in 2011 announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court.

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