DOMA Unconstitutional, Rules New York Appeals Court. But It’s Not Dead — Yet.


The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled today that parts of the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are unconstitutional because they discriminate against same-sex couples.

But don’t get your hopes up just yet — the issue of DOMA’s constitutionality will likely be decided by the Supreme Court, so today’s ruling is more symbolic than anything else.

(Read the court’s full ruling below).

DOMA, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. Additionally, it stipulates that states cannot be forced to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The court ruled today that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who last month filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the law violated the Constitution — offered the following statement about today’s ruling:

“Today’s decision is a major step forward in the fight for equality. I am pleased that the court recognized that the federal Defense of Marriage Act lacks an adequate justification and violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. As we argued in our brief in this case, the court examined the proposed justifications for the statute with special care, both because the statute burdens gay and lesbian married couples, and because it intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will continue to fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all New Yorkers.”

Today’s ruling is now the second time an appeals court has deemed DOMA unconstitutional — a federal appeals court in Boston made a similar ruling in May.

While the law is still technically on the books, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA in February — which enraged those on the far-right who think marriage should only be recognized if it involves both a penis and a vagina.

Read the court’s ruling below.