2nd Circuit strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

The decision follows similar 1st Circuit ruling in May

Another step in the direction toward legalizing gay marriage in the U.S. came yesterday when the 2nd Circuit struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That section of DOMA defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, which, if passed, would make it illegal for same-sex couples to wed and receive federal benefits.

“Because DOMA is an unprecedented breach of longstanding deference to federalism that singles out same-sex marriage as the only inconsistency (among many) in state law that requires a federal rule to achieve uniformity, the rationale premised on uniformity is not an exceedingly persuasive justification for DOMA,” U.S. Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote.

The 2-1 decision comes almost five months after the 1st Circuit issued a similar decision on DOMA. In that decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Boudin wrote, "One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest."

The 2nd Circuit’s decision yesterday makes it a near certainty that the issue will land at the Supreme Court, which has already been asked to review the 1st Circuit’s decision.

Experts are lauding the 2nd Circuit’s decision in the name of civil rights.

"Yet again, a federal court has found that it is completely unfair to treat married same-sex couples as though they're legal strangers," James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project, said in a statement. Esseks represents Edith Windsor, who sued the federal government over DOMA for failing to recognize her marriage to her same-sex partner.

Read more about the 2nd Circuit’s DOMA decision on Thomson Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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