The Associated Press reports,
A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman discriminates against gay couples because it doesn’t give them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples.
The court didn’t rule on the law’s other politically combustible provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it’s legal. It also wasn’t asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
This means that it’s still an open question whether or not states that have outlawed same-sex marriage will be forced to recognize same-sex marriages from states where it is legal. In other words, there is still a major constitutional question that is still unresolved but will have to be before this is all said and done. If a couple is legally married in Massachussetts, they are going to press for their marriage to be recognized if they ever move to a state like Texas where such unions are illegal. The Supreme Court will have to weigh-in eventually.
I agree that the only way to definitively end gay marriage is through Constitutional amendment, but I think that is extremely unlikely. Gay marriage is looking more inevitable than ever.
The ruling will not go into effect immediately. The AP reports:
The 1st Circuit said its ruling wouldn’t be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, meaning that same-sex married couples will not be eligible to receive the economic benefits denied by DOMA until the high court rules.
This reminds me a LOT of the Dred Scott decision, where a slave owner took a slave to a state where slavery was illegal and later tried to claim by that action that he was a free man. The Supreme Court decided he did not have legal standing to sue. This decision is one of the nadirs of decisions by the US Supreme Court.
If I read this ruling right then it is a very narrow ruling in that it only effects states that already allow gay marriage. Meaning if you have both straight and gay marriage then recognizing one and not the other is deemed a violation of equal protection. But a state that does not allow gay marriage would not be affected in any way.