Connecticut federal judge rules DOMA unconstitutional

[JURIST] A judge for US District Court for the District of Connecticut [official website] on Tuesday ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. Judge Vanessa Bryant granted summary judgment [memorandum of decision, PDF] for the plaintiffs, six married same-sex couples and one widower from the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont who were denied federal tax, social security, pension and family medical leave protections due to the DOMA restriction on federal recognition of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. Bryant rejected arguments of the defendant-intervenor US House of Representatives [official website] Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) and denied its motion to dismiss:

[H]aving considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website; press release], which is representing the plaintiffs, expects BLAG to appeal the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website]. The BLAG DOMA defense group of attorneys [JURIST report] was established by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website; press release] on a 3-2 BLAG vote in March of last year after the Department of Justice [official website] announced that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 on order from President Obama, after he announced he would continue to fight for the repeal of DOMA [JURIST reports].

Earlier this month Bryant denied a BLAG motion to stay the lawsuit [JURIST reports] pending the Second Circuit appeal of Windsor v. United States. Edith Schlain Windsor, 83, successfully sued the US government [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website], which in June also ruled on summary judgment that under a rational basis standard [Cornell LII backgrounder] of judicial scrutiny that DOMA is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. This month the elderly New York woman petitioned the US Supreme Court [official website] to expedite her DOMA challenge [JURIST report] and bypass the Second Circuit appeal. That same week a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] in a DOMA challenge that seeks to achieve for gay and lesbian couples the same federal immigration rights afforded to heterosexual couples [JURIST report] under the Immigration and Nationality Act [materials]. Also that week 132 members of the US House of Representatives [official website] filed an amicus brief [JURIST report] stressing that the House is "not united on DOMA's validity" and arguing that statutory classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny, but that DOMA should be overturned as unconstitutional under any level of judicial scrutiny. The brief was filed in the appeal of Karen Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, the landmark case in which the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional [JURIST report].

 

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