by Jeremy Leaming
The blatantly discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton era law, is unconstitutional, says another federal court judge. The decision also marks another step forward for marriage equality, which is part of a much wider movement advancing equality for the LGBT community.
As TPM reports, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, said DOMA, recognizing only marriages between opposite-sex couples, violates “the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.”
In a lengthy opinion, Judge Bryant explored court precedent on the rights of lesbians and gay men, noting in part that a “long history of discrimination against homosexuals is widely acknowledged in American jurisprudence, including the United States Supreme Court jurisprudence. Many courts have concluded that homosexuals have suffered a long and significant history of purposeful discrimination.”
“In sum,” Bryant continued, “the evidence in the record detailing the long history of anti-gay discrimination which evolved from conduct-based proscriptions to status or identity-based proscriptions perpetrated by federal, state and local governments as well as private parties amply demonstrates that homosexuals have suffered a long history of invidious discrimination. Moreover this conclusion is consistent with the majority of cases which have meaningfully considered the question and likewise held that homosexuals as a class have experienced a long history of discrimination.”
Since the Obama administration stopped defending the DOMA’s provision limiting marriage to straight couples, the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives has intervened to help defend it.
But the federal judge concluded in part that the group could offer “no conceivable rational basis for the provision.”
The case, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, follows a ruling in spring by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that also concluded, in part, that the DOMA advanced disparate treatment of same-sex couples. The First Circuit stated the “Supreme Court equal protection decisions have both intensified scrutiny of purported justifications where minorities are subject to discrepant treatment and have limited the permissible justifications.”
The obvious implication is that that day is fast approaching for the nation’s top court to grapple with a federal law that deprives lesbians and gay men of rights that many others take for granted.
The Pedersen opinion is here.