Thursday, July 9, 2009

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley files lawsuit against federal DOMA

07/08/09 press release by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley:

BOSTON Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit in United States District Court (D. Mass.) [Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (D. Mass. Case No. 1:2009-cv-11156, filed July 8, 2009)] challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The law, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, unfairly excludes more than 16,000 Massachusetts married same-sex couples and their families from critically important rights and protections based on marital status. The complaint alleges that DOMA, which affects more than 1,100 federal statutory provisions, violates the United States Constitution by interfering with the Commonwealth's sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. The complaint also alleges that DOMA exceeds Congress' authority under the Spending Clause because Congress does not have a valid reason for requiring Massachusetts to treat married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples.
The press release links to the complaint. This federal DOMA challenge joins another in Massachusetts - Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management et al. (D. Mass. filed Mar. 3, 2009).

07/09/09 NY Times:

With the suit, Massachusetts becomes the first state to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress in 1996 and prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.


07/23/09 Baptist Press

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Brian Raum begs the question about what the federal DOMA does. He mischaracterizes the argument in the case, claiming that the federal DOMA "doesn't give states the right to dictate to the federal government what will and will not be recognized as a marriage.

07/11/09 WordinEdgewise, by Widener University Law Professor John Culhane:

Culhane responds to Carpenter's view that Congress did not violate the Spending Clause of the constitution when it enacted the federal DOMA.

07/09/09 Volokh Conspiracy, by University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter

Carpenter contends that Congress did not violate the Spending Clause of the constitution when it enacted the federal DOMA. Massachusetts alleges that it did, because it must comply with DOMA to accept all available federal funding of two of its services. But to comply with DOMA the state must also violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, by denying the services to same-sex spouses who would otherwise be eligible. Massachusetts has instead chosen to assume the full costs of providing these services to same-sex spouses. According to Carpenter, "Section 3 [of DOMA] complicates, and imposes identifiable costs upon, a state's recognition of its own citizens' same-sex marriages" - without requiring Massachusetts to also violate the equal protection clause.

07/09/09 WordinEdgewise, by Widener University law professor John Culhane:

In its brief defending DOMA, the Department of Justice holds that DOMA provides a reasonable means to what DoJ considers a legitimate government end - a policy of "neutrality in federalism." The DoJ claims that DOMA bears a rational relationship to this purpose because, under the law, the federal government allows some states to expand the "traditional definition" of marriage, while deferring to the choices of other states to preserve that definition. Among other things, Culhane observes, this lawsuit challenges the claim of neutrality:

As the complaint states, DOMA forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens — especially in the provision of Medicaid benefits, which are funded by both the feds and the states. Massachusetts gets no federal contribution towards the marriage-dependent benefits of same-sex couples. What’s neutral about this?

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