Patt Morrison for May 31, 2012

Federal appeals court determines Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional

Same-sex couples kiss at a recommitment

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Same-sex couples kiss at a recommitment ceremony outside the County Clerk’s Office in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2011. The couples requested and were rejected for marriage licenses as part of a national “Request Marriage” action and call for the repeal of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The U.S. appeals court in Boston today became the first such court to declare the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, ruling that the law unfairly denies equal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The decision paves the way for the United States Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the 1996 law that limits federal recognition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman. In their ruling, the Boston-based judges emphasized that their decision does not establish a national right to gay marriage, which they said remains a matter for individual states to determine. However, in states such as Massachusetts - where gays and lesbians can legally marry - the appeals court judges ruled that the federal government cannot deny these couples the right to file a joint federal tax return or to receive a survivor’s benefit under the Social Security Act.

WEIGH IN:

Is this ruling a sign that the U.S. is becoming more tolerant of gay marriage? What will happen when the issue of gay marriage inevitably arrives at the Supreme Court?

Guest:

Esme Deprez, state and municipalities reporter from Bloomberg; she has been covering the issue of gay marriage for two years


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