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.