Bush-appointed judge finds federal marriage ban unconstitutional

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connecticut

Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen.

A U.S. District Judge in Connecticut, writing a 104-page decision, on Tuesday ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act violates the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant, named to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, is the latests of several court ruling against DOMA. The law, which denies federal health and other benefits to same-sex couples, is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bryant ruled in a case brought by six same-sex couples and a widower, all legally married in the New England states of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Marriage equality is now legal in six states and the District of Columbia.

Section 3 of the law violates the 5th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, ruled Bryant, in that it “obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition, thereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marital benefits.”

A U.S. District judge in Connecticut ruled that a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman is unconstitutional because it denies tax, health and other benefits to married gay couples in her state and others.

Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, who was appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush, ruled today that the marriage restriction contained in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act violates the Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.

Bryant wrote that the restriction “obligates the federal government to single out a certain category of marriages as excluded from federal recognition, thereby resulting in an inconsistent distribution of federal marital benefits.”

She also said “many courts have concluded that homosexuals have suffered a long and significant history of purposeful discrimination.”

Several courts across the country have made similar rulings. The Obama administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue.

The ruling came in the case of six married same-sex couples and a widower who sued after being denied federal benefits. The plaintiffs are from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Among the plaintiffs are Joanne Pedersen and her spouse, Ann Meitzen.

“I'm thrilled that the court ruled that our marriage commitment should be respected by the federal government just as it is in our home state of Connecticut,” Pedersen said in a statement after the ruling was released.

She and Meitzen, of Waterford, Conn., were married in December 2008. Pedersen, a retired civilian employee of the U.S. Navy, is enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. She sought to get Meitzen covered under the plan, but her request was denied.

Meitzen has a chronic lung condition that affects her ability to work and wants to retire, but she can't because of the cost of her health insurance, Bryant's ruling said.