Thursday, July 08, 2010
Federal judge rules Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in wake of Lingle’s veto of civil unions
by Larry Geller
Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle no sooner stomps on civil rights than a federal judge in Boston throws out the federal Defense of Marriage Act:
A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples' rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.
The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.
Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens. [MSNBC (AP), Judge: Federal gay marriage ban unconstitutional, 7/8/2010]
The ruling was on the basis that the federal law interferes with states’ rights to define marriage. It’s not a great ruling, but let’s give it a “very good.”
The law was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples.
Yes, Hawaii was in a leadership position. Lingle has destroyed that.
In reaction a new boycott movement has sprung up. See: Linda Lingle's veto of civil unions in Hawaii may prompt boycott Christian Science Monitor, 7/8/2010):
Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of legislation to grant civil unions to same-sex couples generated rumblings of a possible boycott of tourism-dependent Hawaii on Wednesday.
Gay-rights activists began discussing retaliatory actions within hours of Lingle's decision, but as of Wednesday had made no decisions.
Still, the Internet was abuzz with expressions of anger, with Twitter users from California to New York urging people to avoid the Aloha State and at least two mainland bloggers asking readers if a boycott was justified.
A boycott, even if successful, can’t defeat Lingle’s veto, and since she’s on her way out in December, she probably couldn’t care less. Perhaps it will have an effect on the House leadership that refused to call an override session. In any case, boycotts are difficult to sustain. If it does succeed, however, it will be a strong message to the next legislature and governor.
Oh, I nearly forgot—we shouldn’t forget that Obama’s administration argued in favor of DOMA, not against it. He lost. Another bad.