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Boehner, BLAG Will Appeal DOMA Ruling

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 27, 2012 9:22 AM

Republican leaders are appealing last week’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys filed the appeal on behalf of House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Friday, reports The Washington Post.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled last Wednesday that the DOMA Section 3, which restricts the federal government's interpretation of the word "spouse" to only include a "person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife," was unconstitutional as applied to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals staff attorney Karen Golinski

Golinski and Amy Cunninghis were legally married in California in 2008, before the state passed Proposition 8. Golinski sued the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) after the office refused to provide health insurance benefits for Cunninghis, claiming that the OPM policy, based on DOMA Section 3, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Though the Department of Justice, at President Obama's direction, stopped defending DOMA in 2011, Boehner enlisted an attorney to argue in favor of DOMA on behalf of a House of Representatives group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). Friday's appeal indicates that BLAG will continue defending DOMA at the appellate level.

The Ninth Circuit isn't the only appellate court where DOMA is being reviewed. In 2010, U.S. District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro ruled in Gill v. OPM that DOMA Section 3 violates the equal protection rights of homosexual married couples by denying them access to marriage-based federal benefits. That decision is currently on appeal in the First Circuit.

It's unlikely that either of the appellate courts will reverse the DOMA decisions, but a circuit split would make the issue a better contender for Supreme Court review.

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