Thursday, February 5, 2009

Two Judges Rule Against the Defense of Marriage Act

UPDATE: For detailed information on Judge Reinhardt's ruling and legal argument, go to The Volokh Conspiracy.

More reports: LA Times

The Los Angeles Daily Journal reports that Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled on behalf of a gay LA federal public defender, citing that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars gay federal employees' spouses benefits, is unconstitutional.

In his ruling, Reinhardt wrote:

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state."

Another ruling by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, on behalf of claims by a 9th Circuit staff attorney, also shoots down DOMA and the problems it inflicts.

DOMA, having passed Congress back in 1996, left it to the states to define marriage while forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages. These judicial orders, in favor of the gay employees (Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson, who married Tony Sears last July 12, and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who is married Amy Cunninghis) directly dispute DOMA. If the gay employees' spouses do in fact receive the benefits, it will be the first federal recognition of a same-sex relationship.

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