The Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) has been ruled unconstitutional yet again. Coming on the heels of two California federal judges ruling DoMA unconstitutional, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has now also issued a ruling that declares the 16-year-old law unconstitutional. The Federal Appeals Court heard the arguments due to a lower court in Massachusetts ruling the law unconstitutional back in 2010.
The three-judge panel that heard the case for 1st Circuit were far from being new. Two were appointed by Republican presidents, while the third was appointed by President Bill Clinton. Same-sex marriage has become a hot topic in this campaign year, but it would appear that all three judges were appointed before the matter could be considered a litmus test.
In fact, the judge who actually wrote the decision was Judge Michael Boudin. Judge Boudin was appointed by President George H.W. Bush. When Boudin was nominated in 1992, he was known as an odd kind of rebel. Michael Boudin was considered a conservative lawyer from a very liberal family. This conservative reputation helped him secure his position on the Federal Appeals Court.
Ruling not referendum
While the court ruled the controversial DoMA as unconstitutional, the ruling came with very little teeth. Even though same-sex union supporters celebrated what they perceived as a victory, the ruling is not enforceable. The matter will have to be heard by the Supreme Court before DoMA could possibly be repealed. The ruling did state same-sex couples should be eligible for the same Federal benefits of traditional married couples, but the court did not have the jurisdiction to take any action.
A win for both sides
Despite the larger legal and moral issues at hand, the ruling boiled down to federalism. The court ruled that the Federal government could not dictate to individual states what constitutes marriage. This would give greater credence to those states that have already passed laws legalizing same sex marriage. Yet, this ruling also bolsters states like North Carolina. North Carolina recently amended their own constitution to ban gay marriage. Under this latest ruling, the Federal government could not force North Carolina to over turn that amendment in the future. So while some may see this as a victory for equal rights for same sex couples, this ruling may only deepen the divide between both sides of the issue.