By Kathy Carlson
A federal appeals court in Massachusetts ruled Thursday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it prevents same-sex married couples from receiving benefits available to heterosexual married couples. The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that in enacting DOMA, the federal government was intruding into domestic relations law, which states have historically regulated.
The appeals court itself acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to address the issue, and the ruling won’t take effect pending appeal. The case examined only DOMA’s definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and not a separate provision saying states need not recognize same-sex marriages legally contracted elsewhere. Even if the ruling went into effect, it would cover only the 1st Circuit, which includes Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island.