DOJ: will appeal DOMA cases

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed notice to a federal district court in Boston that it does intend to appeal the court’s decision in two cases testing the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The notice was generally expected, given the Obama administration’s consistent position that it must defend all federal laws—even unconstitutional laws.

The appeal filed October 12 from the office of Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West is in the cases of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. In two separate opinions, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in July that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and takes from the states powers given to them by the 10th Amendment.

The Massachusetts lawsuit was led by Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, and the Gill case was led by Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Bonauto and GLAD also led the landmark lawsuit that won equal marriage rights for Massachusetts couples in November 2003.

Although they challenge the law on different grounds, both lawsuits target just one of two provisions of DOMA: the section states that, for federal purposes, “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Neither lawsuit challenged the section of DOMA that enable any state to ignore valid marriage licenses issued to a same-sex couple in other states.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a statement Tuesday saying her office looks forward to presenting its case to the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

“DOMA is an unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional law that discriminates against Massachusetts married couples and their families,” said Coakley. “DOMA denies same-sex married couples from being treated equally under the law across a wide range of areas, from accessing basic health care, retirement and social security benefits to being buried with their loved ones in a veteran’s cemetery.”

2 Responses to DOJ: will appeal DOMA cases

  1. antonio says:

    First let me compliment this news service. It had the most accurate and timely report on the Vaughn Walker decision when other news Eg Mercury News (which I highly respect) were wrong at first as to the exact effect of a stay or no stay.
    Finally, my instincts tell me Obama has avoided a pissing match with the head of the DOJ. The DOJ can never pursue a cause that is unjust. The reason they’re pursuing this one is that it is run by a homophobe. I don’t fault Obama. It is not worth a fight at this level. A court will eventually decide this in any case.
    thank you

  2. Robin says:

    This will probably be doing us a favor in the end. We will get the respected appellate courts to chime into our favor.

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