Judge Rules Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

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February 23, 2012
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On February 22, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) is unconstituional.  It was the first judicial decision in a DOMA case since the Obama administration announced last year that it would not defend the law, which it considers discriminatory.

The decision came in the lawsuit of a California federal court employee who sued the government for denying her wife health insurance coverage.

In his decision, Judge White, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote that DOMA denies lesbians and gay men equal protection under the law and that there is no legal basis for treating people differently on the basis of their sexual orientation.

"The obligation of the court is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code," White wrote.  He added that the subjective moral beliefs of a majority of people cannot justify imposition of those beliefs on a minority.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Boston ruled DOMA unconstitutional in 2010.

DOMA denies same-sex married couples hundreds of federal marriage rights, including Social Security survivors' benefits, joint tax filing, and immigration sponsorship.

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