Thursday, May 31, 2012

Appeals Court rules DOMA Act unconstitutional

This will soon go to the Supreme Court. From MSNBC News:

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denies a host of federal benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the act known as DoMA, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.

The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington’s laws are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.

The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.

The 1st Circuit said its ruling wouldn’t be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, meaning that same-sex married couples will not be eligible to receive the economic benefits denied by DOMA until the high court rules.

I'm thinking for the Supreme Court, it becomes a question of looking at this case from a social issue, or from a benefits issue. The social issue would be that marriage is a religious pact between a man and a woman. The benefits issue are insurance, visitation, and tax benefits that federal and state governments provide for married couples. Conservatives are arguing this is a social and religious issue for heterosexual couples--no gay couples allowed! Gay couples are demanding they should have the same benefits that married couples enjoy. With the Court so evenly divided, it becomes a question of how will Justice Anthony Kennedy decide?

This also brings gay marriage in the front of the presidential elections. Whoever will be elected president this November, will probably select one or two Supreme Court slots in the next four years. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will obviously choose a hard-line conservative to the Court. President Obama will probably choose a moderate-conservative to the Court. So it becomes a question of how far right will the Court be tilted in the next four years?

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