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Another federal judge rules DOMA unconstitutional

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. — A federal judge in Connecticut on Tuesday said the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, violates the U.S. Constitution’s right to equal protection.

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford, Conn., comes with respect to claims brought by six married same-sex couples and one widower from the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont who were denied federal tax, social security, pension and family medical leave protections only because they are (or were) married to someone of the same sex.

Plaintiffs Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen

Under the ruling, the plaintiffs’ marriages must be accorded the same federal protections and responsibilities as those of other married couples.

The ruling by Bryant, an appointee of President George W. Bush, stems from the lawsuit Pedersen et al v. Office of Personnel Management et al, filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in November 2010 in the Federal District Court in Connecticut.

“I’m thrilled that the court ruled that our marriage commitment should be respected by the federal government just as it is in our home state of Connecticut,” says Joanne Pedersen, who is a plaintiff with her spouse, Ann Meitzen. “I loved working for the Navy for many years, and now that I am retired I now just want to care for my wife and make sure we can enjoy some happy and healthy years together. DOMA has prevented us from doing that.”

Judge Vanessa L. Bryant

In her ruling, Bryant found:

Section 3 of DOMA obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition, thereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marriage benefits as all marriages authorized by certain states will receive recognition and marital benefits, whereas only a portion of marriages authorized by other states will receive federal recognition and benefits.

[...]

Having considered all four factors, this Court finds that homosexuals display all the traditional indicia of suspectness and therefore statutory classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny. However, the Court need not apply a form of heightened scrutiny in the instant case to conclude that DOMA violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny.

“Judge Bryant’s ruling is very clear: married people are married and should be treated as such by the federal government. There is no legitimate basis for DOMA’s broad disrespect of the marriages of same-sex couples,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized that DOMA’s creation of second-class marriages harms our clients who simply seek the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy,” Bonauto said, in a statement.

The next step in the case is likely to be an appeal of the District Court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from the interveners in the case – the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by House Speaker John Boehner.

BLAG intervened to defend DOMA from equal protection challenges after President Barack Obama declared his administration would no longer defend DOMA in federal court challenges.

would no longer defend the law in response to this case and Windsor v. United States. That appeal should come within the next 60 days.

Bryant joins the growing chorus of federal judges in Massachusetts, California and New York who have also ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

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18 more reader comments:

  1. Evolution is work slowly but surely.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 12:58pm
  2. It is good that we have judges that make rulings based on the constitution of the U.S and not on other peoples religious morals!! :) :)

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 12:58pm
  3. I see a SUPREME COURT showdown soon!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 12:59pm
  4. Yay!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:00pm
  5. Love it, Thanks for your advocacy! For any folks interested in services, testing, support or even just a place to talk check us out CHATpdx. LIKE the page to join us & get in the loop. It’s a great community :) http://www.facebook.com/CHATpdx

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:02pm
  6. Until this is done that is to demolish DOMA which really stand for —- all GAYS are DOOMED —– Then not only we are not facilitating and practicing true democracy we are allowing everything that has been happening towards the LGBT community to continue whether it is bullying or worst. We are our father’s keepers so we must prove to our for-fathers who fought so hard to establish this land calls the UNITED States of America to stand in freedom and liberty as well as justice for all. We must respect the constitution and bill of rights and we can do even better by allowing people to be while abolishing unnecessary hatred, bigotry and sexism.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:06pm
  7. The most compelling argument in favor of same sex marriage (ssm) is that there is no logical reason why it shouldn’t be legal. The most common argument against ssm is based on the proposition that it will somehow destroy the institution of marriage. What is the evidence of this? Why should same sex couples, 2 consenting adults, who live together in a loving, committed manner, be a greater danger to society simply because they marry? Opponents know they can’t prevent same sex relationships without draconian state action (jail or extermination in concentration camps), so the battle is waged against sanction or tacit approval by the state. Opponents seek instead to stigmatize same sex couples by excluding or ghettoizing them from the rest of society. The message is, “you are different; you are not like us; we don’t want you in our club,” while hiding behind the ill-logic of “protecting families.” Protect from what? If the relationship exists already & families are “exposed” to such relationships, what difference does it make? Marriage is a HUMAN & CIVIL right, not a heterosexual privilege.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:21pm
  8. We have had legal gay marriage in Canada since 2005 (I think that was the year) and nothing negitive has happened to our country because of it..But even more important to me we have equal rights in so many other ways that the U.S. doesnt, like in the work place.No one is going to legally get fired because they are gay here.No one can get evicted from ther home because their landlord found out they are gay.No good parent in Canada is going to lose their children just because their partner is the same sex as them.These are things that I dont think a lot of Americans even know can and do happen in many states.And I really feel if theses things where to be brought up more then the marriage debate we would have even more supporters for our cause.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:46pm
  9. some people may not be too concerned about what our unions are called but if they relized the other injustices we are fighting for and let them really see we arent treated equal in so many very important ways,then anyone with a heart and 1/2 a brain would step forward and help make things right for everyone

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:51pm
  10. Equal rights are inevitable. How can one reason against reason?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:10pm
  11. easy the ones that can are stuck in their bigot hateful feaful ways

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:14pm
  12. fearful

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:14pm
  13. This is strike 5. Prop 8 proponents filed for appeal today. Hopefully they will get smacked down as well.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:20pm
  14. they should all get smacked down and so should DOMA for good

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:27pm
  15. …about time…

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:27pm
  16. its only a matter of time now

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 2:51pm
  17. I’m from Kansas. I keep hearing a lot how some of my LGBT friends have given up on the idea of their rights ever being the same in America, or are close to it.
    So news like this is always, always music to my ears. There IS a light at the end of this tunnel. Hang in there; we are gonna win this.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 5:13pm
  18. One by One…and they all fall down! :)

    Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 5:38pm