A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the core part of the Defense of Marriage Act, barring federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples, is unconstitutional.
The panel said that, under simple rational review of the law, the same-sex couples seeking to overturn DOMA, “cannot prevail.” But, the panel also said that the principles of equal protection and federalism implicated together by DOMA “require a closer than usual review based in part on discrepant impact among married couples and in part on the importance of state interests in regulating marriage.”
The panel decided that an earlier 1st Circuit decision on a case challenging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” “has already declined” to grant “suspect classification” to laws based on “sexual preference.” And the panel said it was neither empowered nor willing to “create such a new suspect classification for same-sex relationships.”
But citing Romer v. Evans and other U.S. Supreme Court precedents, and noting that the denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples married in Massachusetts “does burden the choice of states … to regulate the rules and incidents of marriage,” the court said Section 3 cannot stand.
-Reported by Lisa Keen