In a groundbreaking ruling that will almost certainly be challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, today a federal appeals court declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples. Interestingly, two of the three judges on the panel that decided the case are Republican appointees, and the decision was authored by Judge Mike Boudin, a traditional conservative appointed by George H.W. Bush.
The Huffington Post reports:
In its unanimous decision, 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 deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.
The court didn't rule on the law's more 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.
The law was passed at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.
The court, the first federal appeals panel to deem the benefits section of the law unconstitutional, agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.
Read more at the Huffington Post.