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Massachusetts Attorney General Files Complaint against DOMA in Mass v. HHS

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts files a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts arguing that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies rights and protections to the 16,000 gay and lesbian couples who have married since the state introduced marriage equality in 2004.  In doing so, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley writes, DOMA “interferes with the Commonwealth’s sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage.”

In its brief, Massachusetts points to the historical tradition in the United States in which states, and not the federal government, control all matters of marital and family law.  Until the passage of DOMA in 1996, the federal government had deferred to the state definitions of marriage when determining marital status for the purposes of federal law, even though some states’ definitions of marriage varied from those of other states’.

Specifically, Massachusetts argues that DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by forcing the Commonwealth, which recognizes only one class of married couple, to separate its citizens into two separate and unequal categories to comply with federal law.  In doing so, Coakley writes, “Section 3 of DOMA changes the meaning of marriage in Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts also argues that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution’s Spending Clause, by threatening to withhold federal funds from Massachusetts if the Commonwealth does not abide by the federal definition of marriage.  (For example, Massachusetts cites its decision to allow gay and lesbian veterans to be buried in veterans’ cemeteries funded by federal money, money that the federal government could withhold by arguing that Massachusetts has violated DOMA.)

In the complaint, Massachusetts asks the district court to rule DOMA unconstitutional and order the federal government not to enforce DOMA against the Commonwealth.

1 Comment Leave a Comment

  • 1. Wordpress Co  |  October 30, 2018 at 8:57 am

    This man is awesome. Old but gold post. I know a man like Gayling, named Sincan Avukatlari , poor man.

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