Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Massachusetts Attorney General Sues U.S. Government Over Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

The Boston Herald reports that Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit this morning against the U.S. government to force it to extend a wide range of benefits to some 16,000 gay and lesbian couples legally married in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit challenges DOMA which Coakley says prevents gay and lesbian couples here from receiving tax, retirement, insurance, Social Security and other benefits.

The attorney general says in court papers that her action would not affect other states’ laws regarding marriage.

The AG's lawsuit claims the federal DOMA interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define marriage as it sees fit and that the act "constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law."

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as limited to a union between one man and one woman. (Read a further breakdown of the case at Law Dork.)

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the "exclusive prerogative of the states." Now, because of the U.S. law's definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments.

"In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people," the lawsuit states.

In a press release back in March, Coakley expressed her support for the lawsuit filed by GLAD challenging DOMA.
“We strongly support the efforts of GLAD and its clients to pursue equal rights for all married couples in Massachusetts. Since the Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Goodridge in 2003, Massachusetts has taken many affirmative steps to ensure and solidify marriage equality in the Commonwealth. Despite all of these efforts, married individuals in same-sex relationships do not enjoy equal rights in the Commonwealth. DOMA is a law that codifies discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Because of this law, individuals in same-sex marriages often pay more in federal income taxes, are not eligible for surviving spouse benefits from the Social Security Administration and, if they are employed by the federal government, cannot obtain healthcare coverage for their spouses.

Today’s lawsuit describes compelling stories of individuals in committed, loving, and lasting relationships, who have been deprived of rights and protections that they rightfully deserve. They are simply seeking the legal protections given to all other married persons. Massachusetts sees no reason to view these couples in any other way than as married couples, and we hope that this lawsuit results in a similar outlook at the federal level.”
GLAD's lawsuit, which is separate from the AG's, argues it discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive.

The third lawsuit challenging DOMA is the Smelt case which resulted in the infamous DOJ brief comparing same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia.

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