Thursday, May 06, 2010

Nibbling on DOMA

Today is finally show time for GLAD's piecemeal plan to cripple DOMA. This morning in federal court in Boston, three widowers and eight wed same-sex couples state their grievances against one part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Legal observers concur that this is a way station, that the case will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. When my favorite the field, Prof. Arthur S. Leonard, analyzes the case, I'll add that. As background, the National Law Journal ran an analysis of this and related cases.

The full complaint filed a year ago is here. The gist is that federal regulations and this part 3 of DOMA discriminate against Massachusetts same-sex couples who legally wed here. As described in the overview of the suit, the effects are real and measurable. For example, not being able to file a joint tax return as any heterosexual married couples harms the plaintiffs financially.

Underlying the case are some big issues. For one, comity — recognition of one state's laws by others and by the feds — is not honored. While not mandated by federal law, it is an almost universal norm in the country. This break with that norm clearly discriminates solely on sexual orientation. The courts have to weigh whether there is justification.

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