The road to full queer equality is a long and hard one, but is being navigated steadily, one step at a time. The recent mid-term elections may have placed obstacles in the way in some states, but may have eased a path in others. Meanwhile, a string of recent courtroom successes, challenging parts of the Defence of Marriage Act in Massachusetts, and Prop 8 and DADT in California, could be followed by others.
When the state of Massachusetts challenged DOMA in the courts, it was limited in scope. The verdict, when it came in July, was widely welcomed – but had limited direct relevance for other states. Indirectly, it has offered encouragement to other states. Connecticut and New York have now filed comparable challenges in their own state courts.
2 lawsuits challenge US Defense of Marriage Act
NEW YORK (AP) — Gay civil rights groups trying to build momentum for a possible Supreme Court showdown filed two lawsuits Tuesday that seek to strike down portions of a 1996 law that denies married gay couples federal benefits.
The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Connecticut and New York and come just months after a federal judge in Boston struck down a key component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The legal actions seek judicial declarations that the law enacted by Congress in 1996, when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional because it prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples. Since 2004, five states — Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.
In July, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston ruled in two separate lawsuits that the Defense of Marriage Act forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens to qualify for federal funding. He also said it violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it had no response to the lawsuits, except that the government “is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged.”
The department said that, as a policy matter, President Obama has made clear that he believes the law is “discriminatory and should be repealed” and was working with Congress to do so.
The filing of multiple lawsuits will likely result in rulings in different federal court districts. That could increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will eventually consider the issue.
- A Terrible Tuesday for the Defense of Marriage Act (gayrights.change.org)
- GLAD Files Second Suit Against Federal DOMA for Married Couples in Three More States (pamshouseblend.com)
- DOMA on Two Fronts: ACLU and GLAD File Lawsuits – An Analysis (towleroad.com)
- 2 Lawsuits Challenge Defense Of Marriage Act (newyork.cbslocal.com)