Riding a wave of recent successes for the LGBT community, such as President Barack Obama's support for gay marriage this month, a federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.
The court said the 1996 federal law defining marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" discriminates against same-sex couples who are legally married under state law.
The unanimous decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, written by George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Michael Boudin, stated DOMA denied same-sex couples the same federal rights heterosexual couples enjoy, such as filing joint taxes and sponsoring someone for citizenship.
"Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest," Boudin wrote.
However, the decision also noted that the case would probably go all the way to the Supreme Court before a final ruling would be made. "We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case," Boudin added.
The ruling also stated DOMA also interferes with a state's ability to define marriage. Currently same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia.
The issue of gay marriage will inevitably be a factor in this year's presidential election, especially after the president made clear he "personally" supports legalization. White House Spokesman Jay Carney said today's decision "is in concert with the president's views." Republican nominee Mitt Romney has repeatedly said he believes marriage is defined as between one man and one woman.
Public opinion is marginally on the side of the president, with recent polling showing just over half of Americans support the right for same-sex couples to marry. According to a May 8 Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage while 48 percent do not.
Additionally, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, convened by House Speaker John Boehner to defend DOMA when the president called it unconstitutional in 2011, is expected to appeal the Boston decision.
Nonetheless, the LGBT community celebrated Thursday's appeals court decision. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the legal group that helped bring one of the decisions to the court, issued a press release Thursday stating, "today's decision reaffirms the lower court ruling that all married couples and surviving spouses deserve the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and their families."
"The battle isn't over. We expect the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. House of Representatives to appeal the decision...We are prepared to fight until our victory is secured."
by RTT Staff Writer
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