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Mass AG Coakley Continues Challenge to DOMA

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 22, 2010 11:56 AM

On February 19, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley tried to move her state one step closer to completing its challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. As discussed in the post on this blog, What is The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?, the federal act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage for federal legal purposes as the union of one man and one woman. The law also allows states that do not permit same sex marriage between their own citizens to refuse to recognize those marriages legally performed in states that do.

In July of 2008, The Boston Globe reported that AG Coakley became the first to file a constitutional challenge to the federal law. Coakley argues that the federal law steps into an area traditionally reserved for the states. Massachusetts allows same sex couples to legally marry, and according to the AG, the DOMA, "overstepped [the federal government's] authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people." Opponents of same sex marriage in that state doubt the merit of the case. "We believe the suit will have no credibility in the federal courts. The federal courts have already ruled that the DOMA is constitutional," Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told The Globe.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that AG Coakley asked the court to grant her motion for summary judgment on this case. A summary judgment can be made by a court when there is no question of fact in the case, only a question of law and how it should be applied to those facts.

Regardless of the court's decision on last week's request, it is virtually certain that the outcome of this case will be appealed in the federal courts and possibly set the stage for a Supreme Court appeal. The outcome of that case will affect lives of thousands of married couples throughout the country, of both the same and opposite sex.

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