Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Defense of Marriage Act

By Michelle Bauman

-- A federal appeals court struck down a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in a New York case, renewing calls for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue of “same-sex marriage.”
“This is yet another example of judicial activism and elite judges imposing their views on the American people,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage in an Oct. 18 statement responding to the ruling.

He said that the court decision “further demonstrates why it is imperative for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in the currently pending DOMA cases as well as to the Proposition 8 case.”

“The American people are entitled to a definitive ruling in support of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, as 32 states have determined through popular vote," he said.

On Oct. 18, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes.

In a 2-1 decision, the court held that the legislation is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.

The ruling said that the law’s definition of marriage as being tied to members of the opposite sex “was not substantially related to an important government interest.”
The decision marks the second time that an appeals court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The matter is expected to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

In a separate opinion that largely dissented from that of the majority, Judge Chester Straub argued that the Defense of Marriage Act does further a legitimate government interest in childrearing and biological parentage.

He pointed to arguments presented by the law’s defenders that the Defense of Marriage Act “offer(s) special encouragement for relationships that result in mothers and fathers jointly raising their biological children,” an interest which “simply does not apply to same-sex couples.”

“DOMA accomplishes this encouragement by limiting federal marriage rights to opposite-sex couples,” he said.

Straub said that among the stated motivations for the law were “recognizing opposite sex couples’ unique ability to procreate, incentivizing the raising of children by their biological parents, and encouraging childrearing in a setting with both a mother and a father.”

By connecting “the biological component of the marriage relationship to the legal responsibility of rearing the offspring of that union,” the Defense of Marriage Act codified “what had always been implicit in federal law,” he said.

“The Congress and the President formalized in DOMA, for federal purposes, the basic human condition of joining a man and a woman in a long-term relationship and the only one which is inherently capable of producing another generation of humanity,” he explained.

This was done “in keeping with American society’s historical view of a marriage as being between a man and a woman,” a definition that 41 states still maintain, he observed.

Straub noted that multiple state high courts “have accepted this as a rational basis for excluding same-sex couples, even legally recognized same-sex parents, from the institution of civil marriage.”

“Whether connections between marriage, procreation, and biological offspring recognized by DOMA and the uniformity it imposes are to continue is not for the courts to decide,” he said, “but rather an issue for the American people and their elected representatives to settle through the democratic process.”

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