Updated 1:30 p.m. EST
More details and responses from the country's top LGBT organizations have trickled in following today's historic unanimous ruling by a federal appellate court against the "Defense of Marriage Act."
Judge Michael Boudin, appointed by George W. Bush, is surprisingly responsible for today's landmark ruling.
Metro Weekly's Chris Geidner reports:
As to the federalism principles -- questions relating to the allocation of powers between and among the federal government and the states -- that were primarily advanced by Massachusetts in its case, Boudin wrote for the court, "In our view, neither the Tenth Amendment nor the Spending Clause invalidates DOMA; but Supreme Court precedent relating to federalism-based challenges to federal laws reinforce the need for closer than usual scrutiny of DOMA's justifications and diminish somewhat the deference ordinarily accorded."
After examing the potential justifications offered by BLAG, the court held, "Several of the reasons given do not match the statute and several others are diminished by specific holdings in Supreme Court decisions more or less directly on point. 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."
Boudin did so despite holding that the court "do[es] not rely upon the charge that DOMA's hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality."
Boudin was joined in the decision by Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Juan Torruella, appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Freedom to Marry has issued a statement in the wake of today's news:
Today a federal three-judge panel, including two Republican appointees, unanimously ruled that Section Three of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminates against the marriages of same-sex couples performed in the states, is unconstitutional. Below is a statement from Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, and the architect of the Hawaii marriage case cited in the unanimous opinion:
“Today’s unanimous decision issued by the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a powerful affirmation that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is an unconstitutional and unjust law whose days are numbered. This ruling will return the federal government to its historic role of respecting marriages performed in the states, without carving out a ‘gay exception’ that denies thousands of protections. As more loving same-sex couples commit their lives to one another in marriage, the harms of this unjust law become more clear—from service members, risking their lives to protect ours, being denied the ability to protect their own families through military medical insurance or survivor benefits to senior citizens having to move out of their homes after their partners of many decades pass on because they cannot access Social Security protections afforded any other legally married couple."
Another day, another court (correctly!) deciding that DOMA is a violation of the United States Constitution. This time it's the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
In the case Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the 1st Circuit ruled on Thursday that key components of DOMA are unconstitutional because "moral disapproval" is not the basis of law in this country.
Writes the Court:
Many 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.
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 (and even if it approves the result will formulate its own explanation).
The Court goes on to say that the Supreme Court will have to get involved in the dismantling of DOMA and the achievement of full equality.
A PDF of the full ruling is found here.