A federal bankruptcy court in
California on Monday ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
New York Times reported.
The decision by the U.S. Bankruptcy
Court for the Central District of California says the law, which bans
federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and
lesbian couples, violates the equal-protection guarantee of the U.S.
“In this court's judgment, no legally
married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any
other legally married couple,” wrote Judge Thomas B. Donovan.
In an unusual move, 19 out of the
remaining 23 judges of the central district, also signed Donovan's
decision, suggesting they would rule similarly.
Gene Balas and Carlos Morales were
legally married in California in 2008 before Proposition 8,
California's gay marriage ban, was approved by voters. The
California Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the 18,000 gay
and lesbian marriages performed before the enactment of the
The couple filed jointly for bankruptcy
after Balas lost his $200,000-a-year job in March, 2009. Trustees
overseeing the bankruptcy process moved to dismiss their filing under
DOMA. The men petitioned the court to file jointly.
In his ruling, Donovan chided Congress
for approving the law.
“Although individual members of
Congress have every right to express their views and the views of
their constituents with respect to their religious beliefs and
principles and their personal standards of who may marry whom this
court cannot conclude that Congress is entitled to solemnize such
views in the laws of this nation in disregard of the views, legal
status and living arrangements of a significant segment of our
citizenry that includes the debtors in this case,” Donovan
wrote in his 26-page ruling.
House Republicans agreed to take up the
law's defense in court after the Obama administration announced it
would no longer do so. The
administration announced its decision in a strongly-worded letter
signed by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Balas and Morales said they cited
Holder's letter in pleading their case.
“The Holder Letter,” Donovan wrote
in his opinion, “demonstrates that DOMA cannot withstand heightened
Last July, a
federal judge in Boston declared portions of the law