Massachusetts AG Challenges DOMA in Federal Court
Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts, is suing the US government in a Federal court case filed in Boston this morning, in order to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) so that she might secure equal benefits rights for married lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Massachusetts citizens, the Boston Herald is reporting.
What Does The DOMA Challenge Consist Of?
State Attorney General Martha Coakley (pictured) has filed the lawsuit, called the Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, citing that, in order for Massachusetts to be able to define marriage as its sees fit, DOMA, which itself defines marriage as being solely between one man and one woman, must be repealed so that the state be allowed to exercise the very same rights as prescribed in DOMA’s own legal wording when it gives states the right to make such autonomous decisions on the validity of same sex marriages.
The complaint contests that the DOMA legislation oversteps its bounds (contrary to the Full Faith and Credit Clause) as it prescribes that all states be subjected to the Federal perspective on what marriage is and that the law is the US Government directly interfering with a matter of state jurisdiction and determination when it comes to such things as benefit allocation, and that it does so by use of an overreaching and discriminatory law (violating the Equal Protections Clause).
Traditionally, challenges made against DOMA on the basis that it violates the Equal Protections Clause fail, however, as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissenting opinion in the Lawrence v. Texas case, DOMA’s weakest area is probably held in its contention with the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
Specifically, the complaint is lodged against DOMA’s implications as to the receiving of government funds. Under current law, Massachusetts must discriminate against LGBT married couples for such things as Medicaid as they can not be considered married by Federal definition, which is especially galling since Massachusetts was the bastion of gay marriage in America, enacting it in May 2004.
What Will The DOMA Challenge Achieve?
The lawsuit aims to expand benefits provided for Massachusetts’ married gay citizens, but should this federal challenge succeed, the Attorney General has stressed that this would not, in fact, influence nationwide DOMA enforcement, its effect being limited to Massachusetts alone. That said, any dint in DOMA’s armour would create precedent and momentum for an overturn or constitutional repeal of the law, so what could be victory for one state in the short term could translate as victory for all LGBT Americans nationwide.
Furthermore, if the Supreme Court is made to examine the case by applying Strict Scrutiny, it could lead to a national overturning of DOMA, most likely on the basis that it, again, violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
DOMA Under Siege
Whilst the Obama Administration infamously defended DOMA earlier this year to the shock of many in the LGBT community, GLAD, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders group, also from Massachusetts, have filed their own federal suit against DOMA which has been pushed back until September.
Their challenge cites Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies LGBTs the federal rights of marriage as afforded to their heterosexual counterparts, as being discriminatory and “mean-spirited” and that it creates “a system of first and second class marriages” contrary to the Equal Protections clause. You can view Glad’s full complaint against DOMA here.
What Can You Do to Help Defeat DOMA Right Now?
Sign this Care2 Petition today and help overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.