Massachusetts asks Supreme Court to overturn anti-gay DOMA

WiG

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on July 24 filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Justices to overturn the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

Coakley, in a statement from her office, said, “The Defense of Marriage Act is a discriminatory and unconstitutional law that harms thousands of families in Massachusetts and takes away our state’s right to extend marriage equality to all couples. It is our firm conviction that in order to truly achieve marriage equality all couples must enjoy the same rights and protections under both state and federal law.  If the Supreme Court chooses to examine this case, we will look forward to once again making clear that DOMA and its pervasive discrimination is unconstitutional and should be ended.”

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The next stage in the marriage equality push in the state was to challenge DOMA, a law that, in one provision, allows states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states and, in another, federally defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The federal definition means that same-sex couples married in Massachusetts and other states, as well as the District of Columbia, are denied the more than 1,000 federal benefits associated with marriage.

Coakley’s office filed the Supreme Court brief in connection with a federal case from Boston.

In that case, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against DOMA in 2010 and a federal appeals court panel recently upheld the ruling, prompting proponents and opponents of DOMA to turn to the High Court for the final say.

Under Coakley’s direction in 2009, Massachusetts became the first state to file a complaint alleging that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution by interfering with the commonwealth’s sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.

The complaint also alleged that DOMA exceeds Congress’ authority under the Spending Clause because Congress does not have a valid reason for requiring Massachusetts to treat married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples, and that it unlawfully requires Massachusetts to disregard valid marriages in its implementation of federally funded programs.

The Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in the fall, likely will involve at least one case on marriage equality and perhaps as many as four.