Massachusetts Attorney General Martha
Coakley says the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is
unconstitutional in a challenge to the law, the AP reported.
The lawsuit filed in July by Coakley on
behalf of the 15,000 gay and lesbian couples that have legally wed in
Massachusetts since the state legalized gay nuptials in 2004
challenges section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as a
heterosexual union for federal agencies.
In papers filed Thursday, Coakley asked
a judge to declare the law unconstitutional without holding a trial
on the lawsuit, saying the law interferes with her state's right to
“Throughout our history, marital
status has been determined solely and exclusively by State law –
not simply for purposes of State legislation, but also wherever
Congress has chosen to make federal law turn on marital status,”
“The federal government has no
legitimate interest in 'preserving the status quo' where the status
quo is invidious discrimination,” she added.
Massachusetts became the first state to
legalize gay marriage in 2004. Since then, 4 out of 6 New England
states have followed suit.
Coakley's lawsuit is one of several
challenging the federal government on the issue of gay marriage. A
second lawsuit filed by the Boston-based gay rights group GLAD also
calls portions of DOMA unconstitutional. And the first federal trial
to consider the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's gay
marriage ban, concluded last month in a San Francisco courtroom and a
ruling is expected in March. The cases could reach the Supreme
Coakley also argues that the federal
law forces Massachusetts to discriminate against married gay couples.
“Massachusetts cannot receive or
retain federal funds if it gives same-sex and different-sex spouses
equal treatment, namely by authorizing the burial of a same-sex
spouse in a federally-funded veterans' cemetery and by recognizing
the marriages of same-sex spouses in assessing eligibility for
Medicaid health benefits,” she said.