American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

U.S. Court of Appeals: DOMA Is Unconstitutional

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  Passed by Congress in 1996, DOMA nullifies the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples for all purposes of federal law.

AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer:

“Today’s momentous decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals is yet another example of the clear pattern of consistent recognition among federal courts that marriage inequality—by any level of government—violates our nation’s core constitutional principles.

“Whether it is California’s Proposition 8 or the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, court after court has affirmed that marriage discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans is unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional.”

In an opinion authored by Judge Michael Boudin, a unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit (two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents) concluded in Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services that Congress’ denial of federal benefits to lawfully married gay and lesbian couples violates constitutional principles of equal protection and federalism. The cases were brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and several plaintiffs represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

Today’s decision comes on the heels of another court decision on DOMA last week.