Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bankruptcy Court Finds DOMA Unconstitutional

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles has held that section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.  Section 3 forbids the Federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed by states.  The opinion came in a bankruptcy filing brought by a gay couple who were legally married in California while it was legal to do so.  An excerpt from the ruling:

"This court cannot conclude from the evidence or the record in this case that any valid governmental interest is advanced by DOMA as applied to the Debtors. Debtors have urged that recent governmental defenses of the statute assert that DOMA also serves such interests as “preserving the status quo,” “eliminating inconsistencies and easing administrative burdens” of the government. None of these post hoc defenses of DOMA withstands heightened scrutiny. In the court’s final analysis, the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land in regard to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence or the law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment with respect to the thoughts expressed in this decision. The court has no doubt about its conclusion: the Debtors have made their case persuasively that DOMA deprives them of the equal protection of the law to which they are entitled."

In a highly unusual move, the opinion was signed by 20 of 25 judges in the district.  Opinions are normally signed only by the issuing judge.