BREAKING: Gay Marriage Ban Toppled By Yet Another Court

A federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled on Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, adding yet another nail to the federal gay marriage ban’s coffin.

The court, Judge Dennis Jacobs writing for the 2-1 majority, rejected DOMA’s mandate that marriage and the term “spouse” should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman.

Even more significantly, the court found that gay rights are deserving of heightened scrutiny, a judicial standard that requires closer reading and therein recognizes gay people as a disfavored class. This is the first time that a federal court has applied such a standard to gay rights cases.

Even though the court has itself a limited jurisdiction, the ruling means that courts could presume that discrimination against gay people is always wrong, making this a significant ruling in its own right. Therefore, the ruling reaches beyond other previous DOMA decisions, such as a Boston appeals court ruling.

The Jacobs opinion, in striking down the law, rejected the “traditional marriage” argument, saying that even if preserving tradition were to be a legitimate interest, DOMA was not an appropriate vehicle.

The opinion firmly stated the law’s “classification of same-sex spouses was not substantially related to an important government interest.” As such, the majority found DOMA to have breached the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Importantly, the majority also declared that “homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public.”

This is a key argument because heightened scrutiny relies on the minority in question’s political powerlessness. It also firmly shuts the door on the dissenting opinion from Justice Chester Straub who contended that gay marriage was a question for the public to decide.

With this ruling the Second Circuit, covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has joined the First Circuit, which covers Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico, which has also struck down DOMA.

The case was brought by 81-year-old Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor, lead plaintiff in Windsor v. United States. After Windsor’s partner of 44 years died, she was forced to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes because the federal government, per the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), cannot recognize any same-sex marriage.

“Yet again, a federal court has found that it is completely unfair to treat married same-sex couples as though they’re legal strangers,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project, in a press release. “Edie and Thea were there for each other in sickness and in health like any other married couple, and it’s unfair for the government to disregard both their marriage and the life they built together and treat them like second-class citizens.”

“We are pleased that the federal circuit that represents three states that provide their gay and lesbian citizens with the right to marry affirmed the decision of the district court,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, counsel to Ms. Windsor.

Windsor has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to take up her case on an expedited basis, given that she has health issues and that her advanced years mean there is a pressing need to resolve this case.

The SCOTUS has yet to move on any of the several DOMA challenges currently awaiting the court’s attention.


Related Reading:

BREAKING: 1st Circuit Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

New Campaign Highlights How DOMA Hurts Military Families

US House Votes to Tie Obama’s Hands on


Image credit: Thinkstock


Evelyn M.
Evelyn M5 years ago

My 48 yr marriage was NEVER threatened by gay marriage. Give them a break, they just want what everybody wants, fairness.

Evelyn M.
Evelyn M5 years ago

Well said John H.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush5 years ago

Anyone who fights so vigorously against the LGBT community, must ask themselves, just how comfortable they are with their own sexuality.

I married in my 20's, had two lovely children, and divorced shortly thereafter. I have not remarried and am not a particular friend of the institution.
Initially, for men, it was designed for immediate sexual gratification, their meals after a hard day's work, their clean laundry, and any other need they felt they deserved.
For women, it was designed for SECURITY; there is no other purpose, actually.

It was _not_ designed for children, or the family structure, as you can have children without marriage. Marriage does not, necessarily, keep them safe or loved, any more than it does for the parents.
If you need a certificate to be loved, you have a serious problem..

Julie R.
Julie R5 years ago

Good news....

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola5 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Giana Peranio-paz

Great News!

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush5 years ago

Thank heavens, brains sometimes rule.

John Hablinski
John Hablinski5 years ago

@Kathryn re. The DOMA; you’re going to have to ask a Republican to explain the particulars of their efforts to protect your marriage. I’d suggest you start with Boehner & Cantor. If you’ll recall when the president told the DOJ to stop wasting money defending DOMA the House leadership stepped up to protect your straight marriage. I recall reading a week or two ago they had spent $1.5 Million in that effort which I understood to have been the limit. I wonder just how many US citizens in dire straits $1,500,000.00 might have helped?

Kathryn Terhune Cotton

"Defense of Marriage"? Really? Exactly who's marriage does this law defend? My straight marriage doesn't need 'defense' from anyone, by anyone. No matter how many gay people get married it doesn't seem to have any effect on my marriage at all. So, will someone explain to me what it is we 'defending' from? I don't understand what the fuss is about. I never have. So, unless someone can adequately explain to me how my marriage needs to be defended from gay people being married, then I'd appreciated it if they would all just shut the hell up. They're starting to bug me.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.