Yesterday saw a major legal blow (perhaps the most significant one yet) to the Defense of Marriage Act, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the federal government’s definition of “marriage” and “spouse” are unconstitutional as limited to just applying to opposite sex married couples.
As we usually do, we turned to Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner to explain what this means legally. It’s startling moment in the war for marriage equality for several reasons. First, the unanimous ruling came from two Republican appointed judges (tapped by presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush) and one Democratic appointee (tapped by Bill Clinton).
Second, it puts the federal government on notice that for accepted matters regarding couplehood (accepting jointly filed taxes, extending benefits to spouses of federal workers), they can’t discriminate between married different sex or same-sex couples if the couple was were legally married in a state. (As Geidner points out, Judge Michael Boudin wrote, “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.”) Should this ruling be upheld, however, what could still be argued for some time are more nebulous benefits of marriage for same sex couples like immigration, which the Gill case does not address.
Third, we’ve seen the illogical “Alice in Wonderland” paradox shift change from the pro- gay marriage Obama administration to those opposing marriage equality. For a long time, Obama’s on-going “evolution” took away any clarity from what the administration really wanted in terms of gay rights. Their position was chaotic and their pretzel logical made little to no sense. Since Obama’s “evolution,” their positions have been pretty clear, although many (supporters and opponents) suspect his state’s rights stance will continue to evolve towards a national call for same-sex marriage legality everywhere. Meanwhile the illogical inconstancy has shifted to the likes of Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing on behalf of DOMA in Gill who has been all over the federalism question lately. In defending Arizona with SB 1070, arguing against the Affordable Care Act, and now defending DOMA, he’s now the one with no pretense of clarity as to when and how the federal government or the states should have power.
Enjoy our chat above, and read Geidner’s piece today for more analysis.