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07/08/2010

Breaking: DOMA a step closer to going way of DODO

by Jeremy Hooper

Breaking news regarding Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management:

Screen Shot 2010-07-08 At 4.30.39 Pm-1

Everyone's kind of sorting this out, and we've yet to talk to anyone who's actually seen the ruling. More as it comes in.

***

*Here's MORE from GLAD: Federal Court Issues Decisions in Cases Challenging

Federal Court Issues Decisions in Cases Challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act

This afternoon, a federal court judge issued a decision in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders' lawsuit challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The judge also issued a decision in Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Attorney General Martha Coakley's lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, which is separate from GLAD's lawsuit and based on a different legal theory.

***

**UPDATE: Both opinions:

DOMA Decision

Decision in Gill v. OPM

***

**UPDATE: Freedom to Marry gets the early press release trophy:

Historic Ruling Strikes Down Federal Marriage Discrimination

"DOMA Declared Unconstitutional"

July 8, 2010


Statement from Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, the leading campaign to win marriage equality nationwide, on today's historic ruling in Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management:

"Today's historic ruling strikes down federal marriage discrimination enacted under the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1996. DOMA created two classes of marriage - those the federal government respects and some it doesn't - denying married same sex couples and their families equal treatment and depriving them of the crucial safety-net that marriage brings. In Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, eight married same-sex couples and three widowers, represented by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, demonstrated that federal marriage discrimination harms gay and lesbian couples who are trying to make ends meet and protect their families.

Today's ruling affirms what we have long known: federal discrimination enacted under DOMA is unconstitutional. The decision will be appealed and litigation will continue. But what we witnessed in the courtroom cannot be erased: federal marriage discrimination harms committed same-sex couples and their families for no good reason. Today's ruling provides increased momentum to the national movement to end exclusion from marriage and Freedom to Marry's Roadmap to secure the freedom to marry nationwide. The crucial work of changing hearts and minds and winning the freedom to marry in more states is more urgent than ever as we build on today's momentum and encourage other decision-makers to do the right thing and end exclusion from marriage."

HRC:

Federal Court Declares Part of Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional
Trial Judge Rules for Plaintiff Couples, Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Challenging Discriminatory Law


WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised the decisions of Judge Joseph Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, declaring the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. Judge Tauro, who was nominated to the bench by President Richard Nixon, held in Gill that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws, concluding that “indeed, Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.” These decisions are likely to be appealed by the Department of Justice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“Today’s decision is a confirmation of what every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American knows to be a basic truth – we, and our families, are equal,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This is an important step forward, but there is a long path ahead before we see this discriminatory law consigned to the dustbin of history. We thank our friends at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, their courageous plaintiffs and Attorney General Coakley for standing up on behalf of married same-sex couples across the country and for their continued commitment to equality as these cases move forward. Judge Tauro’s decisions make clear that there is no constitutional justification for DOMA, despite the Department of Justice’s contentions in defending the statute. While we expect the Department to continue to defend DOMA on appeal, we urge the Obama administration to push Congress to repeal a law that we know, and Judge Tauro recognized, serves no purpose but to denigrate our families.”

In March 2009, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed Gill v. OPM on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal rights and benefits available to spouses, but denied to them because DOMA, a federal law adopted in 1996, defines marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. In July 2009, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed its own suit challenging the federal government’s requirement that in operating federally-funded programs, including Medicaid and the administration of veterans’ cemeteries, the state must treat some of its married citizens differently than others. There over 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law, including Social Security survivors' benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.
# # #

The New York Times report:

BOSTON — A federal judge in Massachusetts on Thursday found that a law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, ruling that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Judge Joseph L. Tauro of United States District Court in Boston sided with the plaintiffs in two separate cases brought by the state attorney general and a gay rights group.

Although legal experts disagreed over how the rulings would fare on appeal, the judge’s decisions were nonetheless sure to further inflame the nationwide debate over same-sex marriage and gay rights.

Judge Topples U.S. Rejection of Gay Unions [NYT]

*MORE: Mass AG Martha Coakley and legal eagle Tobias Wolf sort it all out.

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