Defense of Marriage Act: Will it go the way of 'don't ask, don't tell'?
Answering Obama's call, lawmakers in the House and Senate seek to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, bringing the battle over same-sex marriage to all three branches of government.
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While government lawyers had defended the law in Boston, where earlier decisions established a legal precedent favoring upholding the law, no such precedent exists in the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York and Connecticut.Skip to next paragraph
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Recognizing this distinction, both the president and Attorney General Eric Holder concluded that government lawyers were no longer bound to defend the statute.
The administration says it will continue to enforce DOMA, but that government lawyers will no longer defend the statute in legal challenges.
In addition to the DOMA lawsuits, a major appeal is pending in California to determine whether same-sex couples have a right under the US Constitution to marry.
Legal analysts expect some or all of these same-sex marriage cases to eventually work their way up to the US Supreme Court.
DOMA allows states to ignore the legal effect of same-sex marriages performed under the law of another state. In addition, the federal statute defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.
Eligibility for federal rights, benefits
The definition is important because it sets eligibility for more than 1,100 federal laws, programs, entitlements, rights, and benefits.
Proponents of the law say it is necessary to prevent erosion of the traditional concept of marriage as a permanent relationship between a man and a woman to encourage procreation and child rearing in a stable home environment.
Opponents say the measure has its roots in antigay bigotry and hatred. They say same-sex couples are just as capable of providing a loving and stable home life for children as heterosexual couples.
“The administration’s decision not to defend DOMA intensifies the urgent need to repeal this discriminatory law,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) of Wisconsin. “All legally married couples should have the same federal rights, obligations, and recognition, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Among the legal challenges to DOMA, is a lawsuit filed in New York by Edith “Edie” Windsor, a resident of New York City. She spent 44 years with her partner, Thea Spyer, until Ms. Spyer’s death two years ago. Although they were legally married in Canada, the federal government, citing DOMA, did not recognize the marriage for purposes of US tax law.
Windsor was ordered to pay a $363,000 estate tax that she would not have owed the federal government had she been married to a man.
“All marriages should be treated equally in the eyes of the law,” she said.