Connecticut federal court finds DOMA unconstitutional

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A US federal court in Connecticut has become the latest to find the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids recognition of gay marriages at the national level, unconstitutional.

US District Court Judge Vanessa L Bryant ruled that the definition of marriage at the federal level contained in the Act violates the US Constitution.

In the case Pedersen v Office of Personnel Management, Judge Bryant confirmed the definition violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the constitution’s Fifth Amendment. GLAD (Gay, Lesbian, Advocates and Defenders) were representing the plaintiffs while BLAG (Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group) defended DOMA.

She determined that the law, as it concerned sexual orientation, warranted the “heightened form of judicial scrutiny” applicable to those groups who show “indicia of suspectness”.

But she concluded a stricter test was not required in this case to find that DOMA “violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny.”

She wrote: “In sum, having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Mary L Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director said: “We are very pleased that the Court recognized that DOMA’s creation of second-class marriages harms our clients who simply seek the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy.”

The Defense of Marriage Act currently denies gay spouses Social Security survivor benefits, the ability to file joint tax returns and health insurance rights enjoyed by straight married couples.

Stuart Gaffney, Marriage Equality USA Media Director, said: “Court after court is coming to the same conclusion — that marriage discrimination is unconstitutional. This discrimination cannot stand.”

Five district courts have now found DOMA unconstitutional. In May, an appeals court in Boston became the most senior court in the US to confirm the law’s incompatibility with the US constitution.