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Massachusetts v United States is one to watch.

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pinto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-17-09 01:19 AM
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Massachusetts v United States is one to watch.
Filed by Mass AG Martha Coakley, this seems to be the first clearly defined constitutional challenge to DOMA on *federal* grounds. Massachusetts is suing to protect federal rights of legally married couples in the state for federal "protections" routinely afforded to all married couples. ~ pinto

The lawsuit focuses on the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

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, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also argues that the federal law requires the state to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits and when determining whether the spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veterans' cemetery.

"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.

The defendants named in the suit include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal government.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090708/ap_on_re_us/us_gay_...


the intro outlines Massachusetts' case.

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS,
Plaintiff,

v.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS; ERIC K. SHINSEKI, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Defendants.


COMPLAINT
INTRODUCTION

In 2004, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first state to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Since that time, more than 16,000 qualified and committed same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts and the security and stability of families has been strengthened in important ways throughout the state. Despite these developments, same-sex couples in Massachusetts are still denied essential rights and protections because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) interferes with the Commonwealths sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage. As applied to the Commonwealth and its residents, DOMA constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law.

In this case, the Commonwealth challenges the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, codified at 1 U.S.C. 7. Section 3 of DOMA creates an unprecedented federal definition of marriage limited to a union between one man and one woman. Congresss decision to enact a federal definition of marriage rejected the long-standing practice of deferring to each states definition of marriage and contravened the constitutional designation of exclusive authority to the states. From its founding until DOMA was enacted in 1996, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the exclusive prerogative of the states and an essential aspect of each states sovereignty, and consistently deferred to state definitions when the marital status of an individual was used as a marker of eligibility for rights or protections under federal law.

Now, because of Section 3 of DOMA, married individuals in same-sex relationships are both denied access to critically important rights and benefits and not held to the same obligations and responsibilities arising out of marriage or based on marital status. DOMA precludes same-sex spouses from a wide range of important protections that directly affect them and their families, including federal income tax credits, employment and 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.

Section 3 of DOMA applies to all federal laws retrospectively and prospectively. In so doing, it affects the Commonwealth in significant ways. First, DOMA interferes with the Commonwealths exclusive authority to determine and regulate the marital status of its citizens. Although the Commonwealth views all married persons identically, Section 3 of DOMA creates two distinct classes of married persons in Massachusetts by denying hundreds of rights and protections to married individuals in same-sex relationships. Second, Section 3 of DOMA imposes conditions on the Commonwealths participation in certain federally funded programs that require the Commonwealth to disregard marriages validly solemnized under Massachusetts law. DOMAs sweeping scope exceeds the powers granted to Congress and violates the United States Constitution.

The Commonwealth seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the narrow but critical purpose of enabling it to define marriage within its own boundaries. This action does not address the application of DOMA in states that do not recognize marriages between same-sex couples. It does, however, seek to remedy the fundamental unfairness that DOMA causes to Massachusetts and its residents by denying those residents equal treatment under the law.

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligen...


Obviously this suit walks the line between federal and state authority in regards marriage rights and equality. I think it does so purposefully and stands the best chance to date to be heard before the US Supreme Court.

Yet, these are federal rights being brought before the federal court. It would seem to warrant a hearing. I've no clue to a timeline on the process. I'm sure it won't be quick. SCOTUS goes on break in August and resumes work in September. There are other federal cases in the procedural pipeline.

But this is one to watch. It won't directly effect state cases, as I read it, but may well provide the background for a larger view of equality in states' actions, legislatively and judicially. (usual disclaimer) I'm not a lawyer, so this is just my two cents. ~ pinto




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