Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Federal Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional

/24-7/ -- In a recent landmark decision, Judge Joseph L. Tauro (of the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts), declared that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (commonly known as DOMA) violates the United States Constitution. Judge Tauro's legal opinion centers around equal protection as well as the concept of states' rights. This lawsuit arose in the year 2009, when the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) challenged the law on behalf of seven same-sex couples (who were legally married under Massachusetts law). GLAD argued that the DOMA violated same-sex couples' right to equal protection under the law, discriminating against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. A subsequent, nearly identical suit was brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, arguing that the states themselves should possess the ultimate right to define the legality or illegality of a marriage. Historically states have enjoyed - since the country was founded - the right to establish their own rules about marriage.

What Does This Mean?

In spite of this recent Massachusetts decision, North Carolina (and 40 other states around the nation) continue to support the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and have passed legislation similar to the federal DOMA. Of those, 30 even have Constitutional amendments specifically barring same-sex marriages. North Carolina has repeatedly proposed such an amendment, but a bill favoring it has yet to make it past the North Carolina House Rules Committee.

It is unlikely that this decision, though widely heralded by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups as a huge victory, will have any effect on marital-status laws enforced by North Carolina or any other state. While it may have persuasive value, courts ultimately must follow and respect the concept of state's rights.

Opponents of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and around the country (as well as representatives of states that currently have a state-level version of the DOMA) claim the contemptuous verdict is a case of judicial law making. Some have even gone so far as to opine that the United States Justice Department - who defended the DOMA on behalf of the federal government - failed to mount a case because of President Obama's open desire to have the DOMA repealed. They also doubt that the DOJ will bring an effective appeal, even though the federal government obviously has a duty to stand behind its laws.

Article provided by Breeden Law

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