Defense of Marriage Act Rejected by NY Appeals Court
A New York federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act Thursday, the second U.S. court to do since May. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court within the coming year.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-to-1, ruling that the act is unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution's equal protection clause. In May, a federal appeals court in Massachusetts also rejected the law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
"The question is not whether homosexuals have achieved political successes over the years; they clearly have. The question is whether they have the strength to politically protect themselves from wrongful discrimination," Judge Dennis Jacobs said about his ruling against the act.
Jacobs refused arguments stating the definition of marriage to be traditional. "Even if preserving tradition were in itself an important goal, DOMA is not a means to achieve it," Jacobs said.
Judge Chester Straub, who voted to upheld the act, said that citizens should determine the definition of marriage.
"Courts should not intervene where there is a robust political debate because doing so poisons the political well, imposing a destructive anti-majoritarian constitutional ruling on a vigorous debate," Straub said.
The New York case began when in 2009 when Edith Windsor sued the government after she was told to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax after her partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer, died. They had married in 2007 in Canada.
The law was originally passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The law denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Since its implementation, many states have banned gay marriage, although a few, such as New York and Massachusetts, have approved same-sex marriage.