Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DOMA = Unconstitutional

Almost a year ago, the Department of Justice concluded that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as applied to legally married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional and decided against defending related court cases in federal court. As a result, the House of Representatives hired a really expensive private firm to defend DOMA in federal court. Earlier today, those high-priced lawyers failed badly. A George W. Bush appointed federal judge ruled that DOMA is indeed unconstitutional!

This particular court case is Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management. Karen Golinski sought and was denied spousal health benefits for her wife from her employer, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The OPM argued that DOMA prevented them from treating Golinski's legal wife equally to the spouses of other federal employees. During the course of this case history, the President and the Attorney General concluded that DOMA is "unconstitutional and inappropriate to defend". Once the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) took over the case, things wrapped up favorably in Golinski's favor. You can read the ruling here.

I'm sure that the political right will use this court ruling to rail against gay families and our marriages. But the situation remains that -- campaign fear-mongering and rhetoric aside -- they cannot adequately defend blatantly discriminatory laws against gay and lesbian families. We see this over and over in the various courts, which of course if why they want to change the basic rules of the U.S. Constitution itself to disenfranchise our families.

Political fallout aside, I'm extremely excited about this court ruling. It points out once again the ridiculous nature of DOMA. How is heterosexual marriage defended when somebody is prevented from insuring her legal spouse? The fact is that DOMA doesn't protect marriage. It just maligns and disenfranchises a small number of American families -- either by preventing those families from securing the legal protections, rights, and responsibilities of marriage itself or by treating the legal marriages of gay families like my own differently than the other legal marriages around us. It makes no sense and it's ultimately indefensible.

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