Another Court Finds Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

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spirit of america /

October 18, 2012; Source: New York Times

In a ruling that may add to the momentum that is propelling the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) toward the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has found the law unconstitutional. The U.S. appeals court upheld the lower court ruling on the law, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In doing so, it became the second U.S. appeals court to find DOMA unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the case on behalf of Edith Windsor. Windsor married Thea Clara Spyer in 2007 (the two were engaged since 1967). When Spyer passed away, Windsor had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes because her marriage was not recognized by the federal government. Even though New York is one of the six states that has legalized marriages between same-sex couples, DOMA prevents the federal government from doing so.

Arguing that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, Windsor and the ACLU won in a two-to-one ruling. Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote, “Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public.”

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department not to bother defending DOMA’s definition of marriage in court, and it seems the U.S. Supreme Court could decide to take up this issue, as there are similar pending cases across the country. Nonprofit voices reacted to the decision quickly. While the ACLU labeled the ruling an affirmation of “the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish,” Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, which is leading the charge against marriage equality, described it as “yet another example of judicial activism and elite judges imposing their views on the American people.” How do you see this decision? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Kathy D

    Who we marry is no one’s business but our own. People may choose to marry unwisely, someone who “is not good for them,” (e.g. wife beater, pedophile, racist, money-grubber, etc.) but that is not illegal. It’s no one’s business but their own; who you marry cannot be decided by others, and should definitely NOT be decided by the government. Period.

  • Andrew S

    I find the knee-jerk response from NOM particularly amusing. How convenient for them to say that this is “elite judges imposing their views on the American people.” As opposed to elite politicians imposing their views on the American people when the law was first passed? By using the word “imposing” they make it sound so sinister, but the truth is that judges are paid to give their views on the issues before them. That’s their job!

  • Simone Joyaux

    You and I are born white or Asian or Black or… We do not choose our color. We are born able bodied or infirm. We do not choose that. We may be born male or female or another gender. We may be born homosexual or heterosexual. Yet we all deserve the same rights, the same opportunities. Equity is equity. Marriage equality is part of that equity.
    Too many people seem to think that marriage is a a religious activity. But first, in a civilized society, marriage is a secular activity, a governmental act. And government is required to be equitable and ensure equity. Government is required to be secular.
    After the legal act, marriage can also be religious. Religions can decide their own theology. But religions and their theologies cannot trespass on government. We seem to allow religion to do whatever it wants, set its own rules for women’s bodies, marriage, healthcare.
    Get married through government. That is secular and equitable. So marriage equality – just like blacks marrying whites – is a law…a legal right. Then celebrate your marriage through your religion. And if your religion doesn’t allow marriage equality, fine. Stick with your religion. Don’t get married.
    I think that the U.S. made a huge mistake when it authorized religions to conduct marriages. Religions should not be authorized to conduct the legal act of marriage. The legal act belongs to government. Someday, I hope that the U.S. will stop religion from intruding in society – in what should be secular.