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Another federal judge rules ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ unconstitutional

Friday, May 25, 2012

A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., ruled late Thursday that a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional to the extent that it limits same-sex spouses of state workers from obtaining the same insurance coverage available to heterosexual couples.

That provision of the 1996 DOMA law defines marriage as “a legal union of a one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said California’s public-employee pension system must make long-term care insurance equally available to same-sex spouses and partners.

Wilken issued her ruling in a lawsuit filed against the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as CalPERS, by same-sex couples. The system had refused to allow same-sex spouses enroll in its federally approved insurance program on the ground that they were excluded by DOMA.

Wilken said the DOMA ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment. She wrote that there was no proof the DOMA provision was “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.”

Metro Weekly has more:

In the order issued Thursday evening, Wilken found that Section 3 of DOMA — the federal definition of “marriage” and “spouse” — “violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff same-sex spouses” and that subparagraph (C) of Section 7702B(f) of the Internal Revenue Code “violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff registered domestic partners.” Specifically, the court found that “both provisions are constitutionally invalid to the extent that they exclude Plaintiff same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners from enrollment in the CalPERS long-term care plan.”

In conclusion, Wilken ordered CalPERS not to use DOMA or the relevant tax provision to deny enrollment to same-sex spouse and registered domestic partners in the state. She also ordered that the federal government not disqualify CalPERS’s plan from the beneficial tax treatment for following the court order. Finally, Wilken established in Thursday’s ruling that the decision would be stayed, or put on hold, during an appeal of her decision if one is sought.

The ruling for the plaintiffs is in Dragovich v. Department of Treasury, and is just one of the many ongoing DOMA challenges in federal courts across the country.

With Thursday’s decision, Wilken becomes the second trial judge in the U.S. District Court for Northern California to strike down that section of DOMA.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco issued a similar ruling in February in a lawsuit filed by Karen Golinski, a federal appeals court staff attorney who wants to enroll her wife in the court’s employee health plan.

In July 2010, Judge Joseph L. Tauro, a U.S. District Court judge in Boston, ruling on two separate challenges to DOMA, held that the act is unconstitutional and forced the state of Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens.

A copy of the ruling is here.

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12 more reader comments:

  1. You see what is coming down the road and it is very exciting.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:12pm
  2. A petition with over 1,200 signatures was delivered to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum last Wednesday. The Ag Museum explicitly denied the use of its facilities to two men wanting to have an unofficial marriage ceremony. The denial of this facility is pure discrimination and infringes on the rights of these two tax paying citizens. Had one person rented the facility for a birthday party, the ag center would have complied. We need to change the ag center’s position. Please view the delivery of this petition and express your concern for this matter. Your voice can make a difference.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:18pm
  3. Cue up Song #2

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:21pm
  4. Who wants to write the next great parody of Lola?

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:22pm
  5. wish more judges in texas felt this way.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:24pm
  6. Now if we could just get the HYPOCRITICAL church to stop lying and using the bible to suit their BIGOTED IDEAS, we’d be fine!

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:26pm
  7. Whoever came up and invented DOMA must have been completely thoughtless of the LGBT community although there are factors to control society on a positive note yet HOW CAN ANYONE TELL ANOTHER WHO TO LOVE WHETHER they are two women or two men or a man and a woman or two cats or two sheeps.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:31pm
  8. We as a society should have only 1 justification on this issue,that would be knowing this is a human rights issue & it is hypocritical of some state knowing this & try justify homophobic act on trying to outlaw what is actually a human right.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:40pm
  9. Tami Miller well said..

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:41pm
  10. The problem is not that anyone has the “right” to marry. The constitution does not guarantee anyone this right. The problem lies with the fact that people think it’s alright to offer marriage to one portion of the population and not another. You cannot say one group can do something and another cannot. THAT is unconstitutional.

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 12:57pm
  11. If I had a time machine I would send the right-wing back to the 1600s where they belong!

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 2:05pm
  12. WOOHOO! Go judge! :)

    Posted on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 8:01pm