Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act - that the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully-married same-sex couples is unconstitutional.
“This ruling is a historic victory for loving gay and lesbian couples and their children,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement. “For the first time, a federal appeals court has recognized that our constitution will not tolerate a law that forces the federal government to deny lawfully-married same-sex couples equal treatment. The writing is clearly on the wall for the demise of this unjust and indefensible law that hurts real families.”
Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. This year, legislatures in Maryland and Washington State approved marriage equality laws, but they are not yet in effect and are likely to be subject to popular referenda.
In 1996, DOMA denied access to more than 1,100 rights, benefits and responsibilities under federal law including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others.
In July 2010, a federal district court judge ruled in the Gill and Massachusetts cases that DOMA is unconstitutional. Two other federal district courts and a federal bankruptcy court have subsequently agreed. The Obama Administration’s Justice Department has also decided not to defend DOMA in court.