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Tipsheet

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, setting up a battle over the law at the Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the provision defining marriage as between a man and woman is unconstitutional in that it denies gay couples the rights granted to heterosexual couples.

The unanimous decision once again brings the issue of gay marriage to the fore of the nation's political debate. It comes just a few weeks after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage -- in the wake of that announcement, some gay advocacy groups have stepped up pressure on Washington to fight DOMA.

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The Obama Justice Department stopped enforcing DOMA more than a year ago.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.  

Furthermore, pursuant to the President ’ s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3. 

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