The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit today declaring parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional constitutes a significant victory for many local activists, lawyers and plaintiffs.
Praise has been almost uniformly bestowed on the ruling by those who advocate for marriage equality.
What follows is a round-up of a few of the statements.
Mary Bonauto, attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who argued the case of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, which was one of the two cases decided by the court's decision, said in a statement:
“This is a strong opinion that affirms that DOMA is an outlier for two reasons. First, because it targets a historically disadvantaged and unpopular group. Second, DOMA intrudes broadly into domestic relations, an area of traditional state regulation. ... Congress does not get to put its ‘thumb on the scales,’ as the court put it, simply because it does not agree with Massachusetts’ decision to allow loving and committed same-sex couples to marry.”
Martha Coakley, attorney general for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who brought before the court the case of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, which was the other of the two cases decided in today's ruling, said in a statement:
“Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second-class marriages, and it does harm to families in Massachusetts every day. All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), commended GLAD, the Commonwealth, and the Court and said in a statement:
“This ruling is a historic victory for loving gay and lesbian couples and their children. … For the first time, a federal appeals court has recognized that our constitution will not tolerate a law that forces the federal government to deny lawfully-married same-sex couples equal treatment. The writing is clearly on the wall for the demise of this unjust and indefensible law that hurts real families. … We applaud GLAD, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the courageous plaintiffs for their incredible efforts on behalf of gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts and across the nation."
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), said in a statement:
"At SLDN, we applaud the court for affirming that legal marriages in the states — and all the rights and protections that come with those marriages — should be recognized and respected by our federal government. Though a narrow decision, this important victory nonetheless paves the way further for litigation like McLaughlin v. U.S., SLDN's case on behalf of married gay and lesbian service members and veterans who are denied equal recognition, support and benefits for their families by this discriminatory law. We congratulate the GLAD attorneys and plaintiffs in this case and look forward with them to the day when every American — especially those putting their lives on the line to protect our nation — has the freedom to marry the person they love, knowing that their commitment will be honored by their government."
Kara Suffredini, Esq.. executive director of MassEquality, said in a statement:
“This is yet another signal that opposition to legal marriage recognition for same-sex couples is crumbling. Last month, in an historic move, President Barack Obama announced his support for marriage equality. National polls consistently find that a majority of Americans support marriage equality for same-sex couples. And our courts are, more often than not, finding for equality.
“This development is critical. Marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts are still not recognized by the federal government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. In addition to being immoral, this inequality means that married same-sex couples do not have access to many of the safety nets afforded other married couples: social security survivor benefits; Medicaid long-term care benefits; spousal veteran benefits; or rights of inheritance. DOMA has, in short, created an indefensible two-tiered system of treatment for married couples based solely on the gender of the spouses.
“We congratulate our colleagues at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office for their fierce pursuit of a legal remedy for this inequality. And we continue to urge our elected representatives in Congress to continue their pursuit of a legislative remedy. The Respect for Marriage Act, which is supported by every member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation save one — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown — would repeal DOMA and see full federal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples, ending this blatant inequality.
“The unmistakable trend in our country is toward public acceptance and embrace of marriage equality. Here in Massachusetts we have joyously celebrated our right to marry for nearly eight years. What we have learned is that our families are safer, healthier, and happier when they are treated with dignity and fairness. We have also learned that our greater civic communities are strengthened as well. We look forward to the day that the marriages of same-sex couples are celebrated everywhere and at every level of government.”
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