Court of Appeals Rules Against DOMA

Court of Appeals Rules Against DOMA

Thursday, in a 2-1 decision, the Second Court of Appeals in New York City gave Gays and Lesbians a new form of constitutional protection against discrimination. The ruling came in a case that is already pending in the Supreme Court. One of ten DOMA cases to go through the appeals courts this year, the case involves a New York woman seeking a refund of $363,053 in federal taxes on the estate she inherited when her same-sex spouse died.  Although she had been legally married, provisions in DOMA denied benefits that opposite-sex widows or widowers receive.

Of the other federal courts that voted to strike down DOMA’s section 3, none presumed to rule that gays and lesbians are constitutionally entitled to greater protection against discrimination until the Second Circuit’s ruling yesterday.

For legal purposes “what the Second Circuit decision did was to declare that gays and lesbians have become victims of continuing discrimination, and their sexual identities makes them a distinctive class, and, as such, any laws that would discriminate against them must be judged by “heightened scrutiny.” (Denniston, Lyle, SCOTUS Blog: http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/10/major-victory-for-gay-rights-same-sex-marriage/#more-154005).

In constitutional law, the courts review discrimination cases on about three standards: Rational Basis Review, and Middle and Heightened Scrutiny. In the past, the majority of courts have made rulings on gay rights with the use of Rational Basis. To have a federal appeals court decide that “any laws that would discriminate against [gays and lesbians] must be judged by heightened scrutiny” is a significant ruling with broad implications.

Lyle Denniston from the SCOTUS blog states:

Under the Second Circuit’s use of that more demanding analysis, discrimination based on sexual identity is now to be judged by the same test that is used when a law is claimed to discriminate against a man or a woman based on their gender.

In states and cities with anti-discrimination laws that include sexual-identity, private business owners and medical practitioners lose their rights of conscience and personal religious freedom. These laws profoundly affect the rest of society in public education, parental rights, and decency laws.

The scope of this ruling is more important than the final outcome. This ruling broadens judicial opinions involving homosexuality and same-sex marriage that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Although, not scheduled, the Supreme Court is expected to review all eight cases related to same-sex marriage sometime next month. Yesterday’s ruling from the second court of appeals is considered a major victory for gay-rights and same-sex marriage.

1Comment
  • Anastasia
    Posted at 09:11h, 20 October Reply

    I am very glad that these things are being reviewed…hopefully more discussion will lead to a better understanding between those who are for/against gay rights. I’m confident that the educated readers here would agree that there are various provisions in DOMA that are very discriminating (like the one mentioned above about the widow who was unjustly taxed on her inheritance).
    I truly hope that one day people can come to some agreement about the issue of rights, and the fact that they need to protect *everyone* in this great, melting pot of a country we have in the USA.

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