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Massachusetts AG Challenges DOMA In Court

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2009

The Massachusetts Attorney General has announced that the state is suing the U.S. government in U.S. Federal District Court over the Defense of Marriage Act which limits the definition of marriage to opposite sex couples. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and state Attorney General Martha Coakley calls the federal law an “overreaching and discriminatory” infringement on rights and powers normally reserved for the states:

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the “exclusive prerogative of the states.” Now, because of the U.S. law’s definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments.

“In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit defends Massachusetts’ decision to allow same-sex marriages, saying it provides security and stability to families:

The lawsuit said that more than 16,000 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts since the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that gay marriage was legal in 2004 “and the security and stability of families has been strengthened in important ways throughout the state.”

“Despite these developments, same-sex couples in Massachusetts are still denied essential rights and protections because the federal Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] interferes with the Commonwealth’s authority to define and regulate marriage,” the lawsuit said.

Opponents often point to the stabilizing influence of marriage as one reason opposite-sex marriage needs to be somehow “protected” from gays marrying. But in doing so, they ignore the fact that gays and lesbians are forming families — and raising children — without that same stabilizing influence. It’s good to see an Attorney General recognize that children of same-sex couples, if not the couples themselves, are no less deserving of that security and stability that heterosexual couples enjoy.

This is the second lawsuit filed in Massachusetts challenging DOMA. The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is also challinging DOMA for denying married same-sex couples access to federal benefits that other married couples automatically receive.

Comments

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K in VA
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

Brava, AG Coakley! And bravo, all you good folks of Massachusetts!

Now, let’s see how the Obama administration deals with this one! They can’t be happy about lawsuits and attacks coming from all sides — too damned bad, I say.

Keep up the pressure on our not-so-fierce advocate. Call 202-456-1111 NOW, and ask POTUS to stop supporting, and work to repeal, DOMA.

Timothy Kincaid
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve long thought that the injured parties in DOMA are the states, even moreso than the individuals (couples are injured on a state level). The first clause of DOMA is nothing more than a power-grab by the federal government to wrest control over marriage from the states and turn it over to a centralized goverment.

I’m glad to see Massachusetts stand up for its rights.

Ben in Oakland
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

And i’m GLAD (pun intended) to see a politician that actually stands for something, like american values.

Christopher Waldrop
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve long thought that the injured parties in DOMA are the states, even moreso than the individuals (couples are injured on a state level).

That’s an excellent point, and it also makes me think of something then-candidate George W. Bush said in response to a question about same-sex marriage. He said it was a states’ rights issue, not something the federal government should concern itself with.

He changed his tune later on, but if any politician’s position is that marriage should be left up to individual states to define then he or she should be reminded that they are therefore opposed to DOMA.

Richard W. Fitch
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

The long-term question becomes: if more states pass laws affirming same-sex-marriage, at what point will the federal govt be compelled to grant federal recognition to ALL same-sex couples?

Mark F.
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

This is a good Federalist approach which conservatives ought to support. Allow the states to define marriage as they wish, but force the Feds to recognize all legal marriages. This avoids the significant problems of compelling all states to allow gay marriages, which would create a major backlash right now.

cd
July 8th, 2009 | LINK

Massachusetts…first in all the good stuff that lasts. :-)

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