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Massachusetts AG joins calls for U.S. Supreme Court to review DOMA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on Tuesday joined the chorus of individuals calling on the Supreme Court to review the Defense of Marriage Act by filing a legal brief asking justices to take up the lawsuit that she filed against the anti-gay law.

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Martha Coakley

The 27-page brief, filed in the consolidated case of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services, comes on the heels of a decision from the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals overturning Section of 3 DOMA in response to the litigation.

The brief states Massachusetts agrees with the appellate ruling and “normally would oppose further review in order to ensure that judgment takes effect as soon as possible,” but notes DOMA, which prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is of national importance and the high court in any event is likely to take up its review.

“On that assumption, the Commonwealth believes that the Court should conduct that review in the context of a case that presents the full range of constitutional challenges to DOMA, including challenges under the Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause that are best presented by a State,” the brief states. “The Commonwealth accordingly agrees that the Court should grant review in this case and affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.”

Coakley’s brief responds to the appeal that filed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) attorneys filed before the Supreme Court in response to the First Circuit decision. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), under the direction of Boehner, took up defense of DOMA following a party-line vote after the Obama administration last year stopped defending the law in court.

BLAG has already presented the question to justices on whether DOMA violates the equal protection clause under the U.S. Constitution, but Coakley presents two new questions: (1) Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment, and (2) Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the Spending Clause under Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

Coakley, who filed her lawsuit in 2009, has been contending DOMA is unconstitutional because it interferes a state’s right to regulate marriage under the Tenth Amendment. Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.

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