Gay rights groups are cheering a
federal appeals court ruling declaring the Defense of Marriage Act
A three-judge panel of the First U.S.
Court of Appeals in Boston on
Thursday became the first appeals court to strike down the law
when it unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling which found that
portion of the law violates the constitutional rights of married gay
and lesbian couples.
“Today's unanimous decision 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,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president
of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement. “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.”
Currently 6 states plus the District of
Columbia offer equal marriage rights. Lawmakers in Maryland and
Washington have approved similar legislation but opponents have vowed
to repeal the laws at the ballot box before each takes effect.
Under DOMA, the federal government does
not recognize such marriages, blocking access to more than 1,100
rights, benefits and responsibilities, including Social Security
survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses and
the ability to file joint tax returns.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which has filed its own
legal challenge as it relates to gay troops, applauded the
“At SLDN, we applaud the court for
affirming that legal marriages in the states – and all the rights
and protections that come with those marriages – should be
recognized and respected by our federal government,” Sarvis said.