Ho-Hum, Another Day, Another DOMA Defeat

Earlier this week I wrote about how quickly gay people are winning, just at the same time that women are losing. Speak of the devil! Yesterday, ho-hum, yet another federal district court judge ruled that a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management. Karen Golinski is a lawyer who works for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco (nice touch, yes?). She got married during the six months that California had a gender-neutral marriage law, between the California Supreme Court ruling that made it possible and before Prop 8 passed and added a constitutional ban to the law. (California is really just too exciting. Its crazy politics and the earthquake fault line are the only two good reasons I've found not to move there.) Golinski applied to add her wife to her health insurance benefits. Her boss at the Ninth Circuit said yes. But here's the hitch: Golinski worked for the federal government, which, because of DOMA, cannot legally recognize same-sex marriages. So, backed by Lambda Legal, Golinski sued. 

And won. The California trial court judge—appointed by George W. Bush—agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional, by any measure, saying that the government had absolutely no justificiation whatsoever to deny Golinski equal recognition (with thanks to Chris Geidner for picking out the good bits):


The Court finds that neither Congress' claimed legislative justifications nor any of the proposed reasons proffered by BLAG constitute bases rationally related to any of the alleged governmental interests. Further, after concluding that neither the law nor the record can sustain any of the interests suggested, the Court, having tried on its own, cannot conceive of any additional interests that DOMA might further....
In this matter, the Court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.

If all this sounds familiar, it is. GLAD already won a comparable case at trial in the First Circuit.

The Prop 8 case gets all the attention because of its splashy lawyers, but (God willing) that result is going to be confined to California. These DOMA cases are more important and more likely to go up. 

Ten years ago, a decision like this would have been an excuse for a wave of antigay referenda. This week, it did not even rate a mention on the New York Times' front page. I just can't shake my head often enough. DOMA is coming down. Here's the only question left: Three years? Five years? 



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