Federal judge finds Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional
May 25, 2012
Last night, a federal judge in Oakland, California ruled that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of legal marriages between same-sex couples, is unconsitutional. The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, also found that a provision of tax law in California unconstitutionally restricts same-sex couples and domestic partners from participating in the state's long-term care insurance plan.
In the order issued Thursday evening, Wilken found that Section 3 of DOMA - the federal definition of "marriage" and "spouse" - "violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff same-sex spouses" and that subparagraph (C) of Section 7702B(f) of the Internal Revenue Code "violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff registered domestic partners." Specifically, the court found that "both provisions are constitutionally invalid to the extent that they exclude Plaintiff same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners from enrollment in the CalPERS long-term care plan."In conclusion, Wilken ordered CalPERS not to use DOMA or the relevant tax provision to deny enrollment to same-sex spouse and registered domestic partners in the state. She also ordered that the federal government not disqualify CalPERS' plan from the beneficial tax treatment for following the court order. Finally, Wilken established in Thursday's ruling that the decision would be stayed, or put on hold, during an appeal of her decision if one is sought.
Judge Wilken is not the first judge in the country to find this segment of DOMA unconstitutional. In February, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco issued a ruling similar to Wilken's, and in June 2011, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California also found DOMA unconstitutional. In July 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro deemed the law unconstitutional, and President Barack Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have announced that they would no longer defend DOMA in court.
Freedom to Marry applauds Judge Wilken's ruling, which advances the case for the freedom to marry even further.
Freedom to Marry is advocating for an official end to DOMA as a leading and founding member of the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a coalition of over 50 diverse groups whose mission is to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would overturn DOMA. A large number of cosponsors have signed onto the bill, including 144 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 32 in the Senate.