Defense Of Marriage Act, A battle over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman appears headed for the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled Thursday that denying benefits to married g*y couples is unconstitutional.
In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law deprives g*y couples of the rights and privileges granted to heteroS-EX-ual couples.
The court didn’t rule on the law’s more politically combustible provision – that states without same-S-EX- marriage cannot be forced to recognize g*y unions performed in states where it’s legal. It also wasn’t asked to address whether g*y couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The law was passed at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize g*y marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on g*y marriage, while eight states have approved the practice, led by Massachusetts in 2004.
The court, the first federal appeals panel to rule against the benefits section of the law, agreed with a lower court judge who in 2010 concluded that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married g*y couples federal benefits given to heteroS-EX-ual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. The ruling came in two lawsuits, one filed by the Boston-based legal group Gay & Le****n Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the other by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
“For me, it’s more just about having equality and not having a system of first- and second-class marriages,” said plaintiff Jonathan Knight, a financial associate at Harvard Medical School who married Marlin Nabors in 2006. (AP)