The Federal Government already does recognize your marriage in Los Angeles

Timothy Kincaid

June 7th, 2012

In the spate of DOMA challenges, I think it might provoke thought to rehash a DOMA case from last year. One in which the Federal Government conceded that – at least in some cases – same-sex married couples are, indeed, married.

February 24, 2011 – Gene Balas and Carlos Morales jointly filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (a cooling down time to allow them to come up with a repayment plan).

March 28, 2011 – the attorney representing the Office of the United States Trustee at their initial hearing, noted that both Balas and Morales were male and therefore could not file a joint petition.

April 15, 2011 – the Trustee’s objection was formalized by Motion to Dismiss.

May 11, 2011 – this was the date set for hearing. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (Paul Clement, under the direction of House Speaker Boehner) requested an extension until June 13, 2011.

June 13 2011 – BLAG filed no objections to the statements and arguments of Balas and Morales. Finding the the government’s “non-response to the Debtors’ challenges” to be noteworthy, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan sided with the Debtors.

The Debtors have demonstrated that DOMA violates their equal protection rights afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, either under heightened scrutiny or under rational basis review. Debtors also have demonstrated that there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA. In the end, the court finds that DOMA violates the equal protection rights of the Debtors as recognized under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In a rather unusual action, 20 of the 24 Central California Bankruptcy Court judges signed the ruling.

June 27, 2011 – the US Trustee appealed the decision.

June 30, 2011 – seven Trustees (that serve cases under the US Trustee) requested immediate certification of appeal to the Ninth Circuit, expressing concern that there was no certainty at the level on which it was decided (I know and work with several of these Trustees and they most certainly are supportive of marriage equality).

July 6, 2011 – noting that the President and Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA3 the US Trustee requested to withdraw his appeal.

The Department of Justice has advised the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (the “BLAG”) of the pendency of this appeal, and the BLAG has responded that it does not intend to appear to present arguments in support of Section 3 of DOMA. The BLAG is actively participating in litigation in several other courts in which the constitutionality of Section 3 has been challenged. In light of the decision by the BLAG not to participate in this appeal and the availability of other judicial fora for resolution of the constitutional question, the United States Trustee has determined that it is not a necessary or appropriate expenditure of the resources of this Court and the parties to continue to litigate the appeal.

July 11, 2011 – the appeal was dismissed. Balas and Morales continued with their joint bankruptcy as the married couple that they are.

So how, exactly, does this play into the whole scheme of DOMA challenges? It would appear that if you file for bankruptcy in Los Angeles, then the Federal Government considers your marriage to be valid. It would be most curious if Balas and Morales were to make a social security claim based on marriage; how could the government object? It has already conceded that they are married.


June 7th, 2012

That depends on if it’s a facial or as-applied challenge. If it’s the latter, it only applies to them. Same with the Golinski case. The court ordered that she should receive benefits for her wife. But it doesn’t apply to anyone else


June 8th, 2012

This sounds like we have all the responsibilities but none of the rights.

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