Federal Court Strikes Blow to Federal Antigay Law Harming Married Same-Sex Couples; Lambda Legal Issues Statement
(Boston, MA July 8, 2010) — Today, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled simultaneously in two companion cases, one brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and another brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of eight married same-sex couples and three widowers, that Section 3 of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director:
"Today's decisions mark immensely important and inspiring steps toward equality for all families under American law. Since 1996, the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' has defended no one, while imposing senseless and cruel discrimination against married same-sex couples and their families. We applaud Judge Tauro's conclusion today that Congress acted beyond its authority when it used the massive power of the federal government to impose a discriminatory marriage definition on the states. With today's decisions, the federal court orders that the heavy hand of the U.S. government must be lifted off the scales of justice, so all legally married people—gay and straight alike—can receive the same treatment under U.S. law and in federal benefit programs.
"We applaud the outstanding work of our colleagues at GLAD and the vision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that went to court to defend married same-sex couples in their state, and the courage of the plaintiffs in Gill for standing up for justice."
In Gill et al. v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, et al., Judge Tauro of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts today granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional as applied to these plaintiffs because it violates the equal protection guarantees in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating without any proper justification between classes of legally married people.
In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, et al., Judge Tauro granted the Commonwealth's motion for summary judgment, holding that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional as applied to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts because it violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Tauro concluded that DOMA does so by intruding on areas of exclusive state authority, as well as the Spending Clause of the federal Constitution, because it forces the Commonwealth to discriminate against its own citizens in order to receive federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs.
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.