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.
On Monday, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, made an unusual ruling for a bankruptcy court: it declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. In that case, a legally married same-sex couple in California tried to file a joint petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The U.S. trustee filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the two men were ineligible to file a joint petition because the federal government did not recognize them as married, and the bankruptcy code allows only married couples to file joint petitions. The court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding that no “valid governmental interest is advanced by DOMA as applied to the Debtors.”
Two months ago, a huge celebration marked the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the policy that allowed the military to treat gays and lesbians differently than heterosexual members of the armed forces. The repeal represented a big win for the LGBT community.