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DOMA Verdict is In: Denying Benefits to Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on May 31, 2012 4:02 PM

What a great year for gay rights activists. First, President Barack Obama comes out publicly to support gay marriage. Now, a federal court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Yes, that's right. The First Circuit Court of Appeals has finally weighed in on the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. And same-sex couples are applauding the unanimous decision of the three-judge panel.

In a 43-page opinion delivered by Judge Michael Boudin, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that DOMA unfairly denied same-sex couples of their rightful benefits.

Does this mean that same-sex couples will be rushing to the altar? Not quite yet, according to the judges on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling, the judges said, didn't establish a nation-wide right to gay marriage. It just established rights to benefits in states where the right to gay marriage already exists. One of these states is Massachusetts.

But it certainly opened the door. Next year, the U.S. Supreme Court will be looking at the issue, and the First Circuit's DOMA ruling will certainly be helpful.

In its ruling, the court pointed out that it did not reach its conclusion by determining that the intent and motives of the legislators were anti-gay or biased against gay marriage. While the court recognized that such intent did exist among a select few members of Congress, the opinions and comments of those few should not be used to taint the law as "anti-gay."

The decision, the court said, was based on the fact that the denial of benefits to same-sex couples didn't further a legitimate governmental objective.

The First Circuit declined to rule on a provision of the law that said that gay marriage in one state didn't need to be recognized in another state.

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