DOMA Heads to Court of Appeals

Boston, MA – The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is heading to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In two separate cases, one brought by same-sex couples married in Massachusetts and the other by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a judge struck down a challenged section of the law which defines marriage for the purpose of interpreting federal statutes, regulations and administrative bureaus whenever the word “marriage” or “spouse” is used. In the case brought by inpidual plaintiffs, the complaint is that they are deprived of a variety of federal benefits because they are not in opposite-sex marriages. Federal judge Joseph L. Tauro agreed ruling that DOMA violated the equal protection principles under Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Tauro (79) also found that DOMA intrudes upon the province of a state under the Tenth Amendment. The First Circuit has agreed to consolidate the cases.

President Clinton signed DOMA into law after it was passed in 1996 by Congress with a 342-67 vote in the House and a 85-14 vote in the Senate. “For years DOMA has been consistently found to be constitutional by courts across the country,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “This is another example of an activist court usurping the will of the people as expressed through their elected officials,” Dacus continued.

Moreover, there is concern in the legal community over how the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is handling the case. First, the successful arguments that have been advanced by the DOJ in previous years in defending DOMA have been abandoned. Further, court papers filed by the DOJ demonize DOMA. Consider this quote taken from the first sentence of a DOJ brief: “this Administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act… is discriminatory and should be repealed.” Further, the lower court noted that the DOJ is “distancing itself” from Congress’ reasons for passing DOMA. For these reasons, PJI feels compelled to file a friend of the court brief in the First Circuit in support of the law.