Author Topic: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional  (Read 1713 times)

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Offline erictheblue

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Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« on: May 31, 2012, 01:47:25 pm »
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A federal appeals court on Thursday found a law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples unconstitutional in a case with implications for gay marriages across the United States.

The Boston-based Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.

"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," Judge Michael Boudin wrote for the three-judge panel.

https://apps.facebook.com/wpsocialreader/me/channels/76682/content/N6U8Y?utm_source=editorial&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=srfan

I'm not surprised. I know there is another case pending in that same court, but I guess that decision isn't out yet.

The decision can (and probably will) be stayed, pending appeal either to an en banc panel of the 1st Cir., or to the US Supreme Court. There is no requirement for either the en banc or the USSC to take the appeal.

If neither does, the decision stands throughout the 1st Cir, which covers Maine, New Hampshire, Mass., Rhode Island, and Puetro Rico. If it is given a hearing en banc, the larger panel will make a new holding, which can be appealed to the USSC. If the USSC takes the appeal (and I believe they will), obviously, their holding will be binding nationwide.
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Offline kefkaownsall

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2012, 01:59:50 pm »
This can be good or bad

Online ironbite

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2012, 02:19:37 pm »
Depends on what the SCOTUS says that is.

Ironbite-my feeling they'll uphold the lower court and uh-oh...fundies will be screaming.

Offline erictheblue

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2012, 03:02:29 pm »
Depends on what the SCOTUS says that is.

Ironbite-my feeling they'll uphold the lower court and uh-oh...fundies will be screaming.

I have no idea how the USSC will rule. The one thing that gives me hope is knowing that DOMA has been struck down twice.

There's three levels of scrutiny used in equal protection cases: strict scrutiny (discrimination based on race or alienage, or violations of fundamental rights), intermediate scrutiny (discrimination based on gender or illegitimacy of birth), and rational basis (everything else).

The first big question is what level of scrutiny the Court will use. I strongly doubt it will be strict, as that would be a huge political step for the Court (putting sexual orientation on the same level as race). On the other hand, Loving v. Virginia declared marriage to be a fundamental right. Also, that case was based on the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. (I have not seen the holding, so do not know under what grounds DOMA was challenged.) Intermediate scrutiny is possible, but that would also be making a statement. On the other hand, the holding in Lawrence v. Texas uses language usually used when discussing intermediate scrutiny (though not all the language). Rational basis is the easiest level of scrutiny to overcome; a law is upheld if it is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. (To quote my bar prep book, "the law is usually valid -- unless it is arbitrary or irrational.") That's what led me to say my ray of hope is based on the fact it has been found unconstitutional twice.

No court is going to use a higher level of scrutiny until the Court has used that same one in a case about the same kind of discrimination, which leads me to believe if it was challenged under equal protection, it was reviewed under rational basis. Which means two courts have, so far, found DOMA to have no rational relationship with a legitimate governmental interest. Since rational basis is such a low bar, it would be hard for the proponents of DOMA to come up with something they haven't already (unsuccessfully) used.
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Offline rookie

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2012, 03:17:07 pm »
And all that is assuming the USSC will even hear this. They can, and may, decide not to touch this and let the various states handle it.
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Offline erictheblue

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2012, 03:33:48 pm »
And all that is assuming the USSC will even hear this.

Very true.

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They can, and may, decide not to touch this and let the various states handle it.

I suspect they will take it. Same-sex marriage is a huge issue, and the states have been all over the place.

There's also a huge federal issue in this. If the Court doesn't take it, then the 1st Cir. stands in the states covered by that circuit. That means married same-sex couples in those states could file joint tax returns, and get SSI benefits.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 03:36:01 pm by erictheblue »
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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2012, 04:14:07 pm »
Even in States that currently ban Same Sex Marriage?

Offline Fpqxz

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2012, 04:15:55 pm »
For those of you who are interested:  here is JURIST Legal News' take on the case (the site is run by U. of Pittsburgh School of Law), and here is a link to the slip opinion.

Note that the Court also found serious federalism/10th amendment concerns with DOMA as well.
Read some real news:  Allgov.com, JURIST

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Offline erictheblue

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2012, 05:54:36 pm »
There's also a huge federal issue in this. If the Court doesn't take it, then the 1st Cir. stands in the states covered by that circuit. That means married same-sex couples in those states could file joint tax returns, and get SSI benefits.

Even in States that currently ban Same Sex Marriage?

See bold. If a couple isn't married, it isn't applicable.

and here is a link to the slip opinion.

Hmm... The court looked at DOMA under a "rational basis with bite" level of review. (Yes, that is the most commonly used legal term.) I also like how the court called DOMA "one of the shortest major enactments in recent history." ("Despite its ramifying application throughout the U.S. Code, only one day of hearings was held on DOMA. . . ") Nice dig at Congress. :)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 06:25:30 pm by erictheblue »
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Offline m52nickerson

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 06:53:20 pm »
"On Thursday, a three-judge appeals court panel ruled in their favor, noting that under DOMA, same-sex couples who are legally married were denied federal benefits that heterosexual married couples are entitled to. Among those benefits are Social Security spousal and survivors' awards, health care benefits for spouses of federal employees and tax advantages for married couples.

Writing for the court, Judge Michael Boudin observed that most Americans live in states where same-sex marriage is banned, and that only a half dozen or so states have legalized such unions. That "diversity," he wrote, "is one of the virtues of federalism." Congress, in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, simply did not offer adequate justification for denying federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married, he said."


http://www.npr.org/2012/05/31/154093269/court-defense-of-marriage-act-unconstitutional

At most this will only give couples in the states that recognize same sex marriages the same federal rights as other married couples.  It will not overturn any state bans on same sex marriages. 
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Offline Stormwarden

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Re: Federal Appeals Court: DOMA Unconstitutional
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2012, 01:32:04 am »
One battle at a time, folks. One battle at a time. By setting precedents, one can chip away at the AFAs and NOMs of the nation, and eventually, love will win out over bigotry. Of course, if DOMA is struck down, it'll get the fundies' mouths frothing in anguish, and I enjoy that as well..


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