A federal appeals court in
Massachusetts on Thursday upheld a ruling declaring the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in Boston said the Clinton-era law which bans federal
agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian
couples is discriminatory, the AP reported.
The three-judge panel unanimously
upheld a lower court's ruling which found the law unconstitutional.
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory
Group (BLAG) last year appealed two cases in which U.S. District
Judge Joseph Tauro declared that DOMA violates the constitutional
rights of married gay couples. House Speaker John Boehner instructed
BLAG to defend the law in court after President Barack Obama said the
Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer do so. Boehner approved
a budget of up to $1.5 million and hired prominent lawyer Paul
Clement to represent the House.
BLAG lawyers argued that Congress had a
rational basis for approving the law, including preserving a uniform
definition of marriage.
Mary Bonauto, a lawyer with the legal
group Gay & Lesbian Advocate & Defenders (GLAD), argued that
DOMA discriminates against gay couples by preventing them from
accessing federal spousal benefits.
“DOMA's precise point was to create
an across the board exclusion of same-sex couples in the U.S. Code.
The promise of equal protection is that likes are to be treated alike
– but DOMA treats married same-sex couples differently from all
other married persons, making gay people and our marriages unequal to
all others,” she said.
“Under the 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,” said Judge Michael Boudin,
writing for the court.