BOSTON (BP) -- A federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in a unanimous ruling Thursday (May 31), becoming the first appeals court ever to rule against the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed a lower court's ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional because it denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.
The ruling, which will be appealed, would force the United
'In allowing one state to hold the federal government, and potentially other states, hostage to redefine marriage, the First Circuit attempts a bridge too far.
-- ADF's Dale Schowengerdt
States to recognize same-sex marriages from the seven states and the District of Columbia where it is legal, and by extension grant federal benefits, such as tax breaks and federal employee spousal insurance, to same-sex couples.
DOMA was passed in 1996 by a bipartisan 84 percent of those in Congress and signed by President Clinton. The appeals court ruling did not overrule another major section of DOMA that gives states latitude in defining marriage. That section was not challenged.
The ruling struck down Section 3 of the act, the part defining marriage for federal purposes.
"Invalidating a federal statute is an unwelcome responsibility for federal judges; the elected Congress speaks for the entire nation, its judgment and good faith being entitled to utmost respect," the court said. "But a lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings."
In 2010, a U.S. district judge ruled concerning DOMA that government cannot constitutionally distinguish between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage.
In the appeals court ruling, Judge Michael Boudin, appointed to the bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, wrote, "If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress' will, this statute fails that test."
In reaching the judgment, the court said Congress was not necessarily hostile to gays.
"The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization," Boudin wrote. Read More