California: Anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act ruled unconstitutional

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A district court judge in California has become the third federal judge to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, as unconstitutional.

The controversial act, passed in 1996, was deemed to be discriminatory by Judge Claudia Wilken, becoming the first to throw her weight against the anti-gay measure since President Obama announced his support for equal marriage.

Previously a court in Massachusetts under judge Joseph Tauro, and another in California under Jeffrey White had ruled similarly. Both judgments in California are set for appeals.

DOMA, in defining marriage as ‘a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife,’ outlaws many federal benefits, most crucially joint tax returns and immigration rights to spouses. This, Judge Wilkens declared, was ‘a burdensome legislation that is the product of sheer anti-gay animus, and devoid of any legitimate governmental purpose,’ according to the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The judge also overturned another legislation from 1996 which denied same-sex couples federal tax benefits under long-term health insurance plans. This too, she argued, was based on ‘moral condemnation and social disapprobation of same-sex couples,’ citing congressional transcripts which declared same-sex partnerships as ‘an attack on the family,’ that would ‘undermine the traditional moral values that are the bedrock’ of the US.

Five married same-sex couples have filed another anti-DOMA federal lawsuit in New York, and another a third federal case is being heard regarding the constitutionality of DOMA in Boston.