Second Circuit Court Joins First Circuit: the federal Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the constitutionally protected rights of same sex couples. Relying on the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution, the federal court found that marriage is a state issue and, where a state allows same sex marriage, the federal government must recognize and give effect to state law. The case was brought by a New York same sex, surviving spouse, seeking a refund of estate tax paid on assets she inherited from her deceased spouse. Heterosexual, married couples receive a spousal deduction and so do not pay estate tax on assets inherited from a deceased spouse.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Maine, previously ruled that portions of DOMA are unconstitutional. In its ruling, a court panel found that the federal government did not have sufficient support to justify its interference with state law defining marriage as including same sex couples, and that denial of federal marriage benefits to same sex couples amounted to unconstitutional discrimination.
Given these two rulings, DOMA clearly will be heading to the United State Supreme Court.