Fed. Court Strikes Down DOMA

Fed. Court Strikes Down DOMA February 24, 2012

A U.S. District Judge in Northern California, who was appointed by George W. Bush, ruled in favor of the plaintiff in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. This is the first ruling to come down since the Obama administration decided not to defend DOMA in court; the defense here was done by the U.S. House. Chris Geidner has some quotes from the ruling:

The Court concludes that, based on the justifications proffered by Congress for its passage of DOMA, the statute fails to satisfy heightened scrutiny and is unconstitutional as applied to Ms. Golinski.

Although the Court finds that DOMA is subject to and fails to satisfy heightened scrutiny, it notes that numerous courts have found that the statute fails even rational basis review…

The Court finds that neither Congress’ claimed legislative justifications nor any of the proposed reasons proffered by BLAG constitute bases rationally related to any of the alleged governmental interests. Further, after concluding that neither the law nor the record can sustain any of the interests suggested, the Court, having tried on its own, cannot conceive of any additional interests that DOMA might further…

The Court has found that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples. Even though animus is clearly present in its legislative history, the Court, having examined that history, the arguments made in its support, and the effects of the law, is persuaded that something short of animus may have motivated DOMA’s passage:

Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of careful, rational reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves.

Board of Trustees of University of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 374-75 (2001) (Kennedy, J., concurring)…

In this matter, the Court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.

A federal court in the 1st District has made a similar ruling, which is now on appeal. This one will likely be appealed as well. At some point, the Supreme Court will have to take up the matter. And the judges are all smartly aiming their rulings right at Justice Kennedy. You can read the full ruling here.

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  • Michael Heath

    This is awesome.

  • Abby Normal

    Always nice to see the good guys win.

  • otrame

    I am practically in tears, here. I know there is a possibility that SCOTUS will rule against it, but honestly I don’t see how they can. !4th Amendment aside there is the whole “full faith and credence” business.

    Why do I care? I am a straight woman in her sixties. I have no close friends or family who are gay, so why? Because it is a matter of civil rights. I got to marry the one I loved. I want that for everyone.

    And I am an old softie. To see all those pictures of gay and lesbian couples in their 80s who have been together for 50 or 60 years finally get to get married is so, so cool.

  • gesres

    I’m wondering if these Republican judges are personally sympathetic to gay marriage, or they are genuinely interpreting the law in a way that opposes their personal hostility towards the practice.

  • Rieux

    A federal court in the 1st District….

    In the what?

    You mean in (or within) the First Circuit.

  • eigenperson

    #4: Whether or not they started out sympathetic to gay marriage, these are trial court judges, which means they have all gone through the experience of hearing the testimony of people who are not allowed to marry, and how this hurts them, and then watching as the shockingly bad arguments in favor of banning gay marriage get ripped to shreds by the pro-gay-marriage side. It quickly becomes clear that there is no legitimate argument against legal gay marriage.

    I think it would be very hard to oppose legal gay marriage after that, even though you might still have a personal religious objection to it.

  • Ace of Sevens

    If his reasoning holds, it would also support a right to marry that states can’t abridge, not just the fed. You just need another test case.

  • d cwilson

    That sound you just heard was an explosion of santorum followed by every wingnut in America having to change their pants.

    I predict a lot republicans are going to be dodging calls from their rent boys in order to avoid an ultimatum.

  • Glad to hear there’s still some sanity out there.

    I’ve got nothing personally at stake with the issue, since I’m hetero and single. It’s a simple matter of right and wrong. I believe in love. I may not have much romantic experience for myself, but I’ve seen how wonderful it can be for others. I will not deny them their freedom to pursue happiness. I will not deny them the freedom to form a family if that’s what they wish to do.

    I simply cannot comprehend the madness, hypocrisy, and hatred that fundamentalists live in, nor why it leads them into such contempt for civilized society.

  • tomh

    Is there any other bar to the federal recognition of same sex marriages? In other words, if this ruling stands, I wonder whether that would automatically qualify all married couples to the approximately 1100 federal rights and privileges that married couples enjoy, or would there be some other barrier.

  • Chiroptera

    I haven’t read the ruling yet, but am I correct in understanding the OP that the problem is that the anti-same sex marriage side simply cannot come up with good justification to deny marriage to same sex couples?

    That it takes some Scalia-grade logical contortions to be able to accept the proffered justifications as good enough?

  • jimnorth

    Chiroptera – that is correct.

    tomh – This ruling specifically deals with Ms. Golinski but I think it just broke the barrier.

    After going through the 43 pages of this ruling, I went back and read the “Loving vs Virginia”, which this case cites. The bigots in that case used similar arguments which were found not persuasive to the court. Paraphrasing Loving…ah heck, here’s the actual phrase that tickled me –

    “We have rejected the proposition that the debates in the Thirty-ninth Congress or in the state legislatures which ratified the Fourteenth Amendment supported the theory advanced by the State, that the requirement of equal protection of the laws is satisfied by penal laws defining offenses based on racial classifications so long as white and Negro participants in the offense were similarly punished.”

  • F

    OK, about time. Now if we can just get Obama to behave like someone who understands the Constitution in other respects, things should be looking up. But then, the courts and legislatures have been totally complicit in fucking the Constitution out in the open since the previous administration, so, I dunno.

  • Why!??? Why did that liberal George W. Bush appoint so many activist judges?

    Heh – presidents can never be sure what their judges will do once the confirmation hearings are over.

  • slc1

    Re georgewiman @ #14

    Case in point, John Jones III.

  • @ slct #14 – indeed! Kitzmiller was a great decision and very entertaining bedtime reading. And the Cranston decision of Ronald Lagueux, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

  • marcus

    @ 3 “Why do I care?” Dear otrame Your answer to that question is the best one of all. Because it is the right thing to do, because it is about human rights as well as civil rights, because when people love each other and want to commit to being together it’s wonderful. I am in my white guy in my middle 50’s, I feel the same way you do. We’re all in this together.

    First they enslaved the black people,

    and I fought, for they are my people.

    Then they arrested the trade unionists,

    and I fought for they are my people.

    Then they denied the gay people their human rights,

    and I fought for they are my people.

    Then they came for me

    and my people rose up and kicked their asses.

    With respect and apologies to Friedrich Niemöller.

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