Ending the Defense of Marriage Act

A lawsuit was filed last week here in Massachusetts alleging that the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act  is unconstitutional and discriminatory. 

According to the story in the Boston Globe on March 3

The suit, which legal specialists described as the first serious challenge to the federal law signed by President Bill Clinton, contends that the statute has deprived the plaintiffs of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

Those benefits include health insurance for spouses of federal employees, tax deductions for couples who jointly file federal income tax returns, and the ability to use a spouse’s last name on a passport.

I think it is about time someone litigated the issue.  I have friends who end up going though lots of gyrations this time of year filing individual federal returns and joint state ones.  I know people who can’t get health insurance throught their federally employed spouse.  And I think it is criminal that people like Massachusetts Congressman Studds surviving spouse can’t get his death benefits.

Those who oppose same sex marriage worry that the end of the Defense of Marriage Act would mean that the individual states would have to approve of gay marriage.  Mary Bonauto, the attorney from GLAD who brought the lawsuit responds

If the plaintiffs win, she said, it would not extend same-sex marriage beyond Massachusetts and Connecticut, the two states where it is legal.

But it would dismantle a federal statute that affects more than 1,000 marriage-related benefits, and it would be a huge victory on symbolic and practical levels for supporters of same-sex marriage, according to legal specialists.

The plaintiffs and GLAD have a long road ahead of them and I, for one, wish them well and I’m proud that Massachusetts citizens are, once again, leading the way to equality.

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