The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a three judges on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled unanimously that the 1996 law that deprives same-sex couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional.
The court did not specifically say that states without same-sex marriage must be forced to recognize the marriages performed in other states where it is legal, nor did the judges address whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. However, if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, states without same-sex will have to recognize marriages performed in states where gay marriage is legal under the Full Faith and Credit Clause from Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says that states must respect “public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state.”
The circuit court agreed with the lower court judge who in 2010 ruled that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married same-sex couples federal benefits that heterosexual couples have, like filing joint tax returns.
Of the three judges who ruled in the case, two were Republican appointees – Judge Michael Boudin was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and Judge Juan Torruella was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Chief Judge Sandra Lynch was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Opponents of the ruling were quick to blast the decision, which is interesting since conservatives are generally Republican and Republicans think the states should have the power to decide these sorts of issues for themselves.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney says the appeals court ruling is “in concert with the President’s views.”
The ruling so far only applies to the states within the 1st Circuit Court’s jurisdiction – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. The U.S. Supreme Court will now have the final say in deciding whether the law passed by Congress is unconstitutional.