Falling Down Like DOMA-noes

Defense of Marriage Act struck down by New York court

A US law defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman has been struck down by a second appeal court, this time in New York.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

The act denies legally married gay couples federal benefits including the ability to file joint tax returns.

A Boston court unanimously ruled against DOMA in May. The Supreme Court is expected to consider it next year.  Only it can issue final rulings on whether laws passed by the US Congress are constitutional or not.

Think Progress also pointed out something interesting about this case.  The chief judge – Dennis Jacobs – was appointed by a Republican and is very conservative … so much so that he effectively wants to render corporations immune to human rights laws.  Yet, in this case, he decided that DOMA discriminates against homosexuals and was not Constitutional:

[W]e conclude that review of Section 3 of DOMA requires heightened scrutiny. The Supreme Court uses certain factors to decide whether a new classification qualifies as a quasi-suspect class. They include: A) whether the class has been historically “subjected to discrimination,”; B) whether the class has a defining characteristic that “frequently bears [a] relation to ability to perform or contribute to society,” C) whether the class exhibits “obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group;” and D) whether the class is “a minority or politically powerless.” Immutability and lack of political power are not strictly necessary factors to identify a suspect class. Nevertheless, immutability and political power are indicative, and we consider them here. In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.

This is good news … but the real test is in the Supreme Court.  We had a victory so far in the upholding of the Affordable Care Act, even with conservatives like Alito and Thomas on the bench.  The fact that conservatives in both Massachusetts and New York both ruled against DOMA provides some encouragement that the right-leaning Supreme Court will likely do the same.  After that, no state will be able to discriminate against same sex couples’ right to marry under the guise of “preserving tradition” … whatever that’s supposed to mean.

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This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News, Society Marches On and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Falling Down Like DOMA-noes

  1. Dan Adler says:

    yes, they will still be able to discriminate. They will still be able to pass constitutional amendments in the states banning same sex marriage. What the overturn of DOMA will mean is that same-sex marriages conducted in those states which do them will (finally) be recognized as legitimate by the federal government. But if I’m in a same-sex marriage and I move to Arizona, Arizona will not (and will not have to) recognize my marriage, even though the federal government does.

    • Shows you how much I know. I had thought that DOMA also allowed the states to refuse recognition of same sex marriages so if it were overturned, they couldn’t do it anymore.

      • Dan Adler says:

        Nope, DOMA is a federal thing only. So if a same-sex couple got “Married” in (for example) Oklahoma, DOMA wouldn’t mean a thing to them, because, Oklahoma not having legal same-sex marriage, they wouldn’t be legally married. But if that same couple got Married in New York, and then returned to Oklahoma, DOMA would apply, but only in as much as it would grant them FEDERAL (not state) recognition. Which matters for things like federal income tax, social security benefits, and other federal goodies.

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