Massachusetts AG seeking summary judgment in Defense of Marriage Act suit

[JURIST] Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] moved for summary judgment [text, PDF] Thursday in a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text, JURIST news archive]. The case will be decided in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [court website]. If the motion for summary judgment is granted, the DOMA, which defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman, would be declared unconstitutional without a trial. Excerpts from Coakley's memorandum supporting the motion for summary judgment outline the commonwealth's argument:

First, DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from intruding on areas of exclusive State authority, of which the definition and regulation of marriage is perhaps the clearest example. ... Second, DOMA - which Defendants admit is "discriminatory" - violates the Spending Clause by forcing the Commonwealth to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs.

The government has until April 30 to file a response to the motion.

The Obama administration has said DOMA is discriminatory but has maintained that it is nonetheless constitutional. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] moved to dismiss [JURIST report] the lawsuit in November, stating it is the policy of the government to support federal statutes as long as there is a reasonable argument in favor of their constitutionality. Massachusetts, the first state to recognize gay marriage, initiated the suit [JURIST report] against the federal government in July. A similar suit was filed [JURIST report] in March by a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage law. The DOJ has also sought to dismiss [JURIST report] that case.

 

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