A federal district court in New York struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. That’s the same problem provision that two other district courts and one appellate court recently have deemed unconstitutional.
The ruling is the fourth federal decision finding that section 3, which denies federal marriage benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples, is an unconstitutional interference in a state’s right to define marriage. The case involved a woman whose same-sex marriage was recognized in New York, but not by the federal government under DOMA. When her spouse died, she was required to pay over $360,000 in federal estate taxes; married couples are exempt from this tax. In her decision, Judge Barbara Jones found that the provision did not pass the lowest level of scrutiny, rational basis review.
That’s surprising because laws rarely fail rational basis review, under which courts must uphold the validity of a law if it is rationally related to even a legitimate conceivable government purpose. By contrast, the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit invalidated DOMA after applying a heightened standard of review.