DOMA marriage definition found unconstitutional by Federal Trial Court

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By Anna Peirano

Today in Connecticut, in a federal case, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant found that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal definition of marriage, is unconstitutional.

Bryant is not the first to reach such a conclusion, following similar rulings by judges in Massachusetts, California, and New York over the past two years. The case was brought to her court by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, titled Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management. Her ruling comes at a time when the Supreme Court faces requests to decide the question of DOMA’s constitutionality once and for all, reports Buzzfeed. 

Laws classifying people based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny by courts, says Bryant, who found the provision of the 1996 DOMA law unconstitutional “even under the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny.”

Bryant was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2007. In her decision in the case, Bryant found:

“Having considered all four factors, this Court finds that homosexuals display all the traditional indicia of suspectness and therefore statutory classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny. However, the Court need not apply a form of heightened scrutiny in the instant case to conclude that DOMA violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny.”

And later concluded:

“In sum, having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

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