BOSTON- Argument in the first case to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, ( DOMA,)  to reach a federal appeals court was heard by a panel today in Boston, on whether to uphold a lower court’s finding that a section of the 1996 law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The Lower Courts:-

Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the United States District Court in Boston sided with the plaintiffs in two separate cases brought by the state attorney general and a gay rights group back in 2010.

In one case brought by Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, the Judge found that DOMA compels Massachusetts to discriminate against gay couples who are legally married under state law in order for the commonwealth to receive federal money for certain programs.

The other case, brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, focused more narrowly on equal protection as applied to federal benefits. In that case, Judge Tauro agreed also in 2010 that the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution by denying benefits to one class of married couples — gay men and lesbians — but not others.

Obama Administration has stopped defending DOMA cases as it believes DOMA to be unconstitutional-

The Obama administration initially appealed the lower court’s ruling. But last year, the Justice Department announced that it would stop defending DOMA, leaving Congress to appeal Judge Tauro’s ruling to the First Circuit. The House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group stepped in, hiring Paul D. Clement, a former United States solicitor general, to argue the appeal.

Massachusetts became the first state in the country to allow same-sex marriage in 2004. Other states have followed, and gay rights supporters are hoping that a series of legal challenges to DOMA around the country will ultimately lead to a Supreme Court ruling on the law. Judge Tauro struck down the section of the law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for all federal purposes.

Read more about today’s arguments and these cases in New York Times


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