In what will without a doubt be a landmark decision, the 1st U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston today ruled that key pieces of the Defense of Marriage Act, that 90s-era law prohibiting the federal government from extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples, violates the Constitution.
The case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, hinges on
whether the government has a rational reason for discriminating against
gay couples. The court clearly thinks not, because “moral disapproval”
should not be the basis of laws.
appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that
the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a
state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits
given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file
joint tax returns. The court didn’t rule on the law’s other provision,
which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to
recognize gay unions performed in other states.
Metro Weekly provides a portion of the ruling:
[M]any Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a
woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today.
One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance
based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that
have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. 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.