Thursday, July 9, 2009

Massachusetts Sues Over DOMA

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is taking the federal government to court over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, argues the act “constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law.” It says the approximately 16,000 same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts since the state began performing gay marriages in 2004 are being unfairly denied federal benefits given to heterosexual couples.

“They are entitled to equal treatment under the laws regardless of whether they are gay or straight,” Coakley said at a news conference to discuss the lawsuit.


The Massachusetts lawsuit challenges the section of the federal law that creates a federal definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the “exclusive prerogative of the states.” Now, because of the U.S. law’s definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments, the lawsuit says.

Let’s see how the conservatives respond to this tactic; after all, two of the foundations of their philosophy have been states’ rights and limiting the federal government’s intrusion into every aspect of the citizens’ rights. Besides being blatantly homophobic, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act violates those principles and does nothing to really defend marriage, since it precludes the possibility of same-sex couples getting married in the first place. You’d think that with a law called “Defense of Marriage” would do everything it could to protect everyone’s marriage rights, gay or straight. But since it demonizes and marginalizes gays and lesbians, it’s okay with righties. After all, what’s more important to them; fear and loathing or equal rights?

There’s no reaction so far from the Department of Justice. It should be interesting to see how the Obama administration, which previously defended DOMA in court briefs in another case, responds to this suit. Since that debacle, it has gone out of its way to try to curry favor with the LGBT community. This should put that to the test.