Bankruptcy Court: Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California released an opinion Monday finding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional when applied in a case where a same-sex couple jointly filed for bankruptcy.
The case involved a bankruptcy filing brought by Gene Douglas Balas and Carlos A. Morales who have been married since 2008. The joint bankruptcy filing was challenged by the United States Trustee with a motion to dismiss because the filing was made jointly by two men “in violation of DOMA’s definition of “spouse” as the statute applies to Bankruptcy Code § 302(a).”
This challenge was made in February, one day after the Obama administration issued notice that it would no longer defend Section 3 of the federal gay marriage ban because, after careful review, they found it to be unconstitutional.
The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), spearheaded by Republican House leaders, has since taken up defense of Section 3. Lawyers working on behalf of BLAG asked for a continuance in the case but, as the court release notes, they made no further move to intervene.
Therefore, the court examined the motion to dismiss on the grounds of current law and without defense from BLAG. As such, 20 of the 25 judges agreed to dismiss the challenge because they found that denying the bankruptcy filing per DOMA Section 3, and therein relegating the same-sex couple’s marriage to a lesser status, to be unconstitutional.
From the opinion (h/t to Metro Weekly):
This court cannot conclude from the evidence or the record in this case that any valid governmental interest is advanced by DOMA as applied to the Debtors. Debtors have urged that recent governmental defenses of the statute assert that DOMA also serves such interests as “preserving the status quo,” “eliminating inconsistencies and easing administrative burdens” of the government. None of these post hoc defenses of DOMA withstands heightened scrutiny. In the court’s final analysis, the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land in regard to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence or the law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment with respect to the thoughts expressed in this decision. The court has no doubt about its conclusion: the Debtors have made their case persuasively that DOMA deprives them of the equal protection of the law to which they are entitled.
To read the court’s full opinion, please click here.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced Tuesday that they were filing an ethics complaint against House Speaker Rep John Boehner (R-OH) regarding his appropriating funds for a legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act without knowing where those funds could be taken from, something that CREW says violates the Antideficiency Act. Read more on that here.