BOSTON (AP) — An appeals court has ruled that the heart of the law that denies a host of federal benefits to same-sex married couples is unconstitutional.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against married gay couples by denying them federal benefits.
The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.
In 2010, a federal judge in Massachusetts declared the heart of the law unconstitutional in two separate lawsuits. The judge found that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.
The case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, hinges on whether the government has a rational reason for discriminating against gay couples. The court clearly thinks not, because "moral disapproval" should not be the basis of laws.
Here's a sample of the stirring decision:
Many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today.
One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage.
Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.