Writer’s Picks: DOMA and more


The big case last week was Commonwealth v. U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs. out of the 1st Circuit, which found Sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1 U.S.C. 7 (“DOMA”) unconstitutional. Section 3 denies federal economic and other benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts and to surviving spouses from those couples, by defining “marriage” as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.” “Spouse” refers “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” The court applied “a closer than usual review” based on discrepant impact among married couples and on the importance of state interests in regulating marriage and tested the rationales for DOMA, considering Supreme Court precedent limiting which rationales can be counted and the force of certain rationales.

More coverage at the WSJ Law Blog.

The West Virginia Supreme Court heard an interesting case that involved a parolee who was barred from associating with felons, which included her husband. In State v. Tanner, the Court found that the parole condition was valid, and not an unreasonable burden on her right of marriage.

The 11th Circuit ruled on a creepy case about tort liability and cemeteries. In Alderwood Group, Inc. v. Garcia, creditors alleged that debtor cemetery owners were liable to them because, due to inadequate record keeping, they were unable to locate grave sites of family members buried in their cemetery. At issue was whether a bankruptcy court in one federal district had jurisdiction to determine whether a debt was discharged in a bankruptcy case litigated in another federal district. The court held that the court lacked jurisdiction and therefore did not reach the other issues on appeal.