By Anna Peirano
A key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as a union between a man and a woman, was struck down by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court on Thursday.
The issue being debated, which originated in Massachusetts, concerns whether or not the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where those couples can legally wed. The appeals court says no.
“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,” said Judge Michael Boudin. “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.”
The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Boston, did not rule on other aspects of the law. The issue of whether states that do not allow same-sex marriages are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states is still contestable.
The appeals court said they understand the issue of same-sex marriage is divisive, and admitted it may ultimately fall to the Supreme Court to decide. However, this remains a landmark decision. It is the first time at this judicial level that aspects of DOMA are found to be unconstitiutional.