Friday, October 19, 2012


The Defense of Marriage Act is one of the more shameful laws the US Congress has passed. Not only does it define marriage in exclusively heterosexist terms, it also outlaws any federal recognition of same-sex couples. Which means that if, for example, a same-sex couple hops the border to get married in Canada, not only will that marriage not be recognised by the US government; the surviving partner will have to pay estate duties if one of them dies, simply because of their sexual orientation. And its that latter point which has just resulted in the law being found to be unconstitutional by a federal appeals court

An appeals court in New York has ruled that a United States law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said the law denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples.


Windsor's attorneys argued that the act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

A federal court in New York agreed, and the ruling by the 2nd Circuit on Thursday upheld the lower court decision.

The full ruling is here [PDF], but its a pretty obvious one. Of course the law is discriminatory - that is what it is explicitly designed to do! But such laws are not permissible under the US Constitution; the only surprising thing is that it has taken so long for the courts to say so.

The next stage is presumably the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to watch the Republican judges contort themselves to avoid the obvious conclusion that bigot-laws are a denial of equal protection and therefore unconstitutional. Sadly, I suspect they'll manage somehow.