Massachusetts likens DOMA to Colorado initiative that Supreme Court struck down

As posted by Lisa Keen on

"For the second time in three weeks, a federal judge in Boston heard arguments in a lawsuit that asks the court to strike down a significant part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

"In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro is considering whether the federal law’s definition of marriage—one man and one woman—violates state sovereignty when it comes to marriage licensing. On May 6, in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a gay legal group, asked Tauro to consider whether DOMA violates the right of eight same-sex couples to equal protection of the law.

"Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, told Judge Tauro that Section 3 of DOMA—the section that limits the definition of marriage for federal benefits to straight couples—violates the state’s constitutional right, under the federal constitution, to sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.

"DOMA, said Healey, is an 'animus-based national marriage law' that intrudes on core state authority and 'forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens.' She likened DOMA to the Colorado Amendment 2 initiative that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996 with its Romer v. Evans decision. Amendment 2 said no law in the state of Colorado could prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“'DOMA, like Amendment 2,' said Healey, 'is a “wholesale, unprecedented denial of protection for a group of people.'

“'Imagine the federal government giving money for the construction of schools and telling us that we can build them for white children but not for black children,' said Healey. 'Or imagine,' she said, 'that the federal government would give money to subsidize health care for men, but not for women.'

“'That’s what DOMA does to Massachusetts,' said Healey. 'It gives us funding but tells us to treat one category of married people differently than another. It forces us to violate equal protection.'”

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