Guest Author - Lynn Marie Wilson
On July 31 2012, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that DOMA prevents the Federal Government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, which affects federal benefits granted to married individuals.
The ruling, written by Judge Vanessa Bryant, states that DOMA prevented the Pederson couple from accessing federal benefits even though they were legally married in the United States, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).
The Honorable Judge Vanessa Bryant ruled that the Section 3 of DOMA violates equal protection rights. Bryant was nominated by George W. Bush in 2007 for the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The fact that a Bush-era judge wrote a 100-plus page ruling on the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act is surprising to many, although it attests to Bryant's integrity as a lawyer and judge.
Doma was passed in 1996 and has two main components:
1. States are free to deny recognizing the marriage of a same-sex couple that was legal in another state.
2. Agencies in the United States are to define "marriage" as only between one man and one woman. This includes for immigration purposes.
DOMA allows for legally married immigrants coming in to not be recognized as married. It also allows citizens married in one state to be declared "unmarried" and without the appropriate benefits in another.
The Full Faith and Credit Clause in the United States says that acts and rulings in one state must be recognized by other states. DOMA violates this clause.
DOMA has been struck down as unconstitutional in several jurisdictions. The next step is for DOMA to head to the US Supreme Court. The entire LGBT community considers this to be a sign that DOMA will be repealed in the near future.
You can read the ruling at this link: http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/cases/pedersen-v-opm/07-31-2012-pedersen-v-opm-ct-federal-district-court-ruling.pdf
The Defense of Marriage Act wording can be read here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ199/html/PLAW-104publ199.htm