Snap Fact #211
Federal Appeals Court Backs President Obama’s Position on Defense of Marriage Act!
On May 31, 2012 the Federal Appeals Court of Massachusetts struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruling that it unfairly denies equal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
DOMA was passed by a Republican House and Senate and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996. The law means same-sex couples are not afforded the same rights as straight couples when it comes to Social Security benefits, hospital visitation and other rights.
The opinion in the case, Massachusetts vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was written by Judge Michael Boudin, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. It was joined by Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, a Clinton appointee, and Judge Juan Torruella, a Reagan appointee.
Although there is much fussing about this case, it should be noted that the decision was focused on a very narrow section of the law. In the key passage, the judges stressed they were upholding a state's right to insist on equal treatment for its married couples.
When Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 it was intended to prevent same-sex marriages in one state from being legally recognized by all states. Usually, a couple's marriage in one state is recognized as valid in all states. However, the federal law said no state "shall be required to give effect" to a "relationship between persons of the same sex." Moreover, it said that under federal law, a marriage "means only the legal union between one man and one woman." The case decided Thursday dealt only with this latter provision involving federal law and benefits.
Surely this case will reach the Supreme Court in 2013.
This judicial decision comes close on the heels of a political brouhaha that has been playing out in the weeks immediately preceding the ruling.
The President has said recently that his position on Gay marriages has been evolving. This statement was picked up by the propaganda machine and portrayed as insincere and self-serving. They claim that his position “evolved” overnight, in mid-May, just days after Vice President Biden announced his support for same sex marriages on a Sunday morning talk show.
But Obama’s evolution reaches back way further than his Republican adversaries or the carelessly crafted headlines would have you believe. We will see in a moment that the President publicly stated his evolving view at least 2-1/2 years before he announced his all-out support for same sex marriage.