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Thursday, May 31, 2012

ACLU Hails Federal Court Decision Knocking Down Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

DomaThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico praised today’s ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it denies married LGBT couples the same federal benefits available to other married couples. The decision, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, was reached unanimously by the three-judge panel.

“The First Circuit clearly made the right call here,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “LGBT couples are valued members of our communities. They work, pay taxes and contribute to the common good just like the rest of us. They’re part of loving, committed relationships. As the court held today, there is simply no permissible federal interest that justifies passing a discriminatory law like this.”

DOMA was enacted in 1996. Last year, President Obama said the Department of Justice would stop defending the constitutionality of the law. A few weeks ago, Obama made the historic announcement that, after giving the topic serious thought, he now supports marriage between same-sex couples.

“We’re living in an exciting moment in history,” said Simonson, “in which the general public, the courts and even the President of the United States are recognizing that the government has no business intruding into people’s personal sexual lives. Times have changed. Here in New Mexico family is important, and LGBT individuals and couples are valued parts of our families. They’re our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. This case is additional evidence that the nation is moving toward a more tolerant, accepting future.”

Read the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals decision here.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a similar case in federal court on behalf of a woman who was forced to pay over $300,000 in taxes after the death of her spouse. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer had spent for 44 years together as a committed couple. Edie nursed her wife through a long battle with multiple sclerosis, but Thea passed away in 2009.

Edie would not have had to pay the $300,000 if she had been married to a man. The ACLU expects a decision in the case shortly.

And this from Freedom to Marry: Federal Court Unanimously Rules Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional; First Circuit Court panel, including two Republican appointees, finds “no precedent exists for DOMA's sweeping general ‘federal’ definition of marriage for all federal statutes and programs.”

Today a federal three-judge panel, including two Republican appointees, unanimously ruled that Section Three of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminates against the marriages of same-sex couples performed in the states, is unconstitutional. Below is a statement from Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, and the architect of the Hawaii marriage case cited in the unanimous opinion:

“Today’s unanimous decision issued by the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a powerful affirmation that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is an unconstitutional and unjust law whose days are numbered. This ruling will return the federal government to its historic role of respecting marriages performed in the states, without carving out a ‘gay exception’ that denies thousands of protections.

“As more loving same-sex couples commit their lives to one another in marriage, the harms of this unjust law become more clear – from service members, risking their lives to protect ours, being denied the ability to protect their own families through military medical insurance or survivor benefits to senior citizens having to move out of their homes after their partners of many decades pass on because they cannot access Social Security protections afforded any other legally married couple.”

May 31, 2012 at 09:15 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights | Permalink