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marriage as its sees fit, DOMA, which itself defines marriage as being solely between one man and one woman, must be repealed so that the state be allowed to exercise the very same rights as prescribed in DOMA’s own legal wording when it gives states the right to make such autonomous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.


Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Weinbergagain.

15 comments

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik8 years ago

Jan C. I certainly don't blame the Christians for everything that goes wrong in this country - there are many Christians who show true Christian ideals; there are many others who don't act very Christ like - but I don't blame them for things that go wrong; unless it has been proven to actually be their fault.
When you spoke you said all the bleeding heart liberals who.... well, you know what? That is a generalization too. Some Christians assume that everything is the fault of the bleeding heart liberals or the main stream media or whomever Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter or Glenn Beck have identified as the enemy this week. (Did you notice that I said Some Christians- I didn't say this was you - but some Christians.
I am not afraid of death or dying - I am also not afraid of my thinking. When I die, I will go to God, who knows my soul and my transgressions - he will judge me; The one thing I do know is that I have always tried to leave the world a better place, and to treat people kindly - even those with whom I disagree. I am a bleeding heart liberal, by the way & I do think that homosexuals should have the same rights as straight people. It is a matter of civil, human rights - they are humans not animals - Religious laws can be used to discriminate; that is why our constitution is a secular document. It is why there is a separation of church & state.

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Kurt Steinbach
Kurt Steinbach8 years ago

Equal rights means equal rights for everybody, and not just equal rights for some but not others. Equal Rights should not be up for a vote via referendums, ballot initiative, or ballot measures. It is and was also patently unConstitutional for Congress, the President, or the U.S. Supreme Court to have or ever restrict or take away anyone's or any group's rights according to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In addition, Article IV Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution (the Full Faith and Credit Clause), the transactions, records, and contracts made in one state shall be valid and shall be recognized in and by every other state. Therefore, marriage for Gays, Lesbians, Homosexuals, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered is a right that is granted by the 14th Amendment and is a transaction, record, and contract that must be recognized in every state according to Article IV Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

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Marena Chen
Marena Chen8 years ago

To George MM ONLY. You, sir, are NOT a christian minister/chaplain - but the devil's advocate. No REAL christian minister/chaplain would use such derogatory and profane language towards other christians. When you retired from your post, did you also retire from your morals?

No wonder you hid your profile. You are a disgrace to christianity and God will judge you for your words.

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Pam King
Pam King8 years ago

Jan C., Why would someone have to be a "bleeding heart liberal" to want equal rights for all people?

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Jason F.
Jason F8 years ago

The fact is, it's an equality issue. Seperation of church and state... This country is made up of many different peoples and religion can not dictate morality.

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Jan C.
Jan C8 years ago

To all the bleeding heart liberals (the majority on this ultra-liberal site), why do you find it necessary to blame Christians and Conservatives for everything that goes wrong in this country? What are you so afraid of? That you might possibly be wrong in your biased thinking?

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Christopher Fowler

DOMA is unconstitutional in it's intent and scope by insisting that the religious right wing Christians impose their religious dogma on the rest of the country, thus violating the right of others to be protected from domination of one religion's doctrine over all religions and over those not practicing that particular religion.

It also violates the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment of the Constitution by denying a group the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country based on a single aspect of their being.

If they really wanted to protect marriage with these idiotic laws, then they would have outlawed divorce instead.

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Alice B.
Alice B8 years ago

The surging onslaught against DOMA is like a tidal wave: the initial small ripples cannot show the surging power growing underneath the surface. These legal challenges are growing, and that is because more and more LGBTs and straight allies are coming together to fight against HATE.

Straight people with consciences are beginning to identify more and more with the truth that an attack against the rights of LGBTs to true commitment is an attack against the rights of all to LOVE AND JUSTICE.

Straight readers: Please - begin to make a commitment to DO something concrete this month FOR LGBT RIGHTS. Stop in at an LGBT drop-in center and ask to volunteer even just a half-hour a month: they need help with simple things, and if you have extra skills to donate that can be crucial to save them money they need for outreach, for assistance to LGBTs in need [especially struggling LGBT youth!], and for legislative and public education initiatives. My straight daughter is a volunteer with her neighborhood's LGBT drop-in center, helping re/arrange their books area and doing simple tasks; she is a very busy professional with a stressful "day" job, and she is very involved also with animal rights, e.g. fighting puppy-mill/pet-boutiques in NYC. But she has time to stand with her Mom and the other LGBTs by helping in her own neighborhood in NJ. YOU CAN TOO! And you have NO IDEA the appreciation and wonderful friendships you will receive as the result - let alone the personal growth!

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Steve S.
Stephen Spero8 years ago

The problem that I see with this is that if it reaches the Supreme Court, it might get struck down. Right now, the Court is stacked towards the conservative, and I don't see them supporting gay rights.
It's not the right time to push something like this through.

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Carol O.
Carol O8 years ago

I'm old enough to remember the interracial-marriage flap, and I keep hearing the _exact same drivel_ spouted in re: same sex marriage equality. Sheeeeeeeesh!!!!!!!!

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