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Second federal judge rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 23, 2012 | 2:37 pm

14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, page 2. Photo by Wikipedia/National Archives of the United States

Another federal district court judge has ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional. In Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management, Judge Jeffrey White applied a heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, but further held that the law would fail even under rational review.

White held that the law “treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation” without a rational legal basis and therefore violated the plaintiff’s “equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.”

More on the ruling and background of the law from the San Francisco Chronicle:

White’s ruling noted that tradition was used to defend bans on interracial marriage, and said congressional spending power could not be used to single out a vulnerable minority. White also said excluding same-sex couples from the federal definition of marriage “does nothing to encourage or strengthen opposite-sex marriage.”

Before DOMA, the judge noted, the federal government had allowed each state to define legal marriages when deciding whether a couple was eligible for federal benefits.

The 1996 law thus represents “a stark departure from tradition and a blatant disregard of the well-accepted concept of federalism in the area of domestic relations,” White said.

Read the rest here.

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