A federal appeals court in New York became the nation’s second to reject the Defense of Marriage Act, deeming denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples unconstitutional. The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman and bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The appeals court in New York joins an appeals court in Boston who also rejected the law.
Although six states have legalized same-sex marriages, including New York in 2011, the Defense of Marriage Act stops federal law and government programs from recognizing those marriages.
CNN legal analyst Paul Callan spoke on the civil rights issue saying, “This court has a limited jurisdiction. But this is a very favorable decision for those who believe that the Defense of Marriage (Act) unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples.”
He went on to say, “Those who back striking down the law believe this decision will give them a very strong position arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in the future.” The U.S. Supreme Court may take up the issue in its current term.
Judge Chester Straub also added “If the government was to change its understanding of marriage, I believe it is for the American people to do so.”
The Obama administration said last year that it considered the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and would no longer defend it.
Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, a California-based progressive advocacy organization, said “Next stop, Supreme Court. Politicians and judges have no business telling anyone who they can love and who they can marry.”