Appeals Court Rules DOMA Violates U.S. Constitution

JusticeIn what will without a doubt be a landmark decision, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston today ruled that key pieces of the Defense of Marriage Act, that 90s-era law prohibiting the federal government from extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples, violates the Constitution.

The case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, hinges on whether the government has a rational reason for discriminating against gay couples. The court clearly thinks not, because "moral disapproval" should not be the basis of laws.

Here's a sample of the stirring decision:

Many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today.

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.

Boudin and his colleagues are clearly aware their decision will start a fresh round of legal battles, and repeatedly in their decision admit the Supreme Court will one day have to get involved.

"A lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings (and even if it approves the result will formulate its own explanation)," they write.

Here is a PDF of the decision. Our legal expert Ari Ezra Waldman will have a more complete analysis in the very near future, so stay tuned!


  1. says

    Good news for couples in equality states. One more court ruling in our favor. DOMA is–surprise!–not passing those constitutional tests very well. And we know which sides of this case our presidential candidates and their respective parties are on.

  2. Tyler says

    While this is an awesome result, and we should all be very excited, this ruling is not stirring. If you read it, the first word that comes to mind is reluctant. It praises people who voted for DOMA because of tradition, it says that Baker v. Nelson–a 40 year old summary order from the Supreme Court–dooms marriage litigation like the Prop 8 one, it says that DOMA passes rational basis scrutiny (though it applies a slightly different level), it endorses states banning gay marriage, and it says it won’t even consider whether gays are a suspect class deserving equal protection because that would result in us getting marriage rights in other states.

    I’m sure Ari will touch on this. Don’t get me wrong, there are good lines in the decision, and we should be ecstatic at the bottom line, which is DOMA is unconstitutional. This guarantees that the Supreme Court will decide the question (which would not be certain if it had upheld DOMA). However, this precedent is bad for other gay rights cases. If SCOTUS were to write this same decision, we would never have nationwide marriage equality.

    So while we celebrate today, we should hope and pray that the Supreme Court strikes DOMA down in a “better” way, if you will.

  3. Dave says

    America is all about freedoms and that includes freedom to marry who you want and the freedom to have a good job and the freedom to practice what religion you want with out anti-gay Christians oppressing those who do these things. The crime is the anti-gay Christian agenda is making hate groups and spreading lies and making trouble for good Americas who demand that they have the same equal and civil rights as others. Thank God California law has now stopped the anti-gay Christian psychiatrist from electric shocking the penis of gay children in what they call “making them straight”, which is really just another anti-gay Christian psychiatrist crime by terrorizing and torturing children by electric shocking their genitals. If that dose not prove that these anti-gay Christians are insane then I do not know what does.

  4. Simon says

    DOMA is not only unconstitutional, but also antiChrist.

    Discrimination and hatred is the greatest sin which goes against the greatest commandments of Christ given to all Christians. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ has clearly mentionned that the way to have eternal life for his followers is to through his commandments to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself. He has mentionned that those laws are above all other biblical laws of any other prophets. Indeed homophobic haters will perish without eternal life.

    Those homophobes promoting hatred are antiChrist who do not believe or pretend to believe in Jesus Christ but do not acknowledge Christ for saying that His 2 commandments to love God and to love thy neighbor as thyself, are the highest of all biblical laws. The antiChrist, like the devil, is a master of quoting biblical verses except those 2 top commandments of love from Christ, they avoid using Christ’s name but use other names, even ‘God’, to bring all sort of biblical verses or ‘facts’, to lie and to prove their justification to hate. AntiChrist deceive people that those 2 commandments of love were not above all laws for Christians, and they are around in many churches and organizations pretending to be of ‘religious’ faith.

    The issue of homosexuality among any other issues is a test of the Christian faith on that choice of who they really believe in the end, to love (stay with Christ and follow His commandments of love) or to hate (succumb to temptation of verses NOT from Christ and his top commandments and to justify their hatred, a deja-vu of story of Eve falling into temptation by satan the snake with the apple for the ‘gift’ of ‘knowledge’ and ignoring their true God).

  5. joest says

    Tyler keep in mind, even “liberal” judges are conservative in which issues they choose to tackle. They don’t address issues unless they absolutely have to and they’re always reluctant to make game-changing precedent as being repealed is an embarassment.

  6. anon says

    If you read the decision, it’s not “stirring.” It’s kinda an unfavorable favorable decision. But I’ll take it.

  7. Dave says

    America is free for all people and that is why we are all here, to be free, free to love who we want and free to practice what we believe, let no one stop freedom in the land of the free. This is one battle that we have won today but we have more battles to fight to be totally free to not only marry the ones we love but to have equal employment in American and work the same jobs as everyone else with out fear of being fired for being LGBT. Then we need to set our brothers and sisters free in other countries until all LGBT people are free around the world. God is on our side.