Thursday, May 31, 2012

DOMA repealed

I am doing a little dance in my office chair right now.

An appeals court in Massachusetts has ruled that the Federal government has no interest in denying marriage to same sex couples. This is frankly awesome.

The judges stayed their order, anticipating an appeal to the Supreme Court. From the ruling:
The judgment of the district court is affirmed for the reasons and the extent stated above. Anticipating that certiorari will be sought and that Supreme Court review of DOMA is highly likely, the mandate is stayed, maintaining the district court's stay of its injunctive judgment, pending further order of this court. The parties will bear their own costs on these appeals.
So this does not mandate the US government allow a Tunisian man, who has married his male partner in Massachusetts, to file for citizenship on the basis of marriage. However, as I understand things, in the strange world of judicial review, it is now the "status quo" that the Federal government should allow such claims, and therefore it will take a little more effort on the Supreme Court's part to overturn such a ruling.

DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act, was enacted about a year after I came out publicly. It was one of the first concrete issues I really remember caring a lot about. In case you are not so passionate about this lovely piece of legislation, the key components of it are (according to Wikipedia)
Section 2. Powers reserved to the states
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Section 3. Definition of marriage
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
This appeals only addresses Section 3. It does not force states to recognize same sex marriages conducted in other states, as the constitution requires states to recognize opposite sex marriages made in other states under the full faith and credit clause of the constitution (Article 4, section 1 in case you are curious), which says that states that give
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
 There are legal battles to be won by constitutional scholars over the forthcoming years. But now that Congress has been prevented from "Prescribing" the definition of marriage, it would seem that it is a relatively small step to demand "Full Faith and Credit."

I live in interesting times.

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