The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday filed a brief [text, PDF] with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit defending the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The appeal follows a July ruling [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts which found that Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriages as being between a man and a woman, violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and State Sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment [text]. In its brief, the DOJ contends that DOMA is in line with those sections of the constitution, stating that DOMA was “rationally related” to maintaining “consistency in the distribution of federal marriage-based benefits.” The DOJ further contended that DOMA was permissible under Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority [text] because the act, as a “proper exercise of Congress’ Spending Clause authority”, does not violate the Tenth Amendment. Despite a footnote within the brief stating that the DOJ follows a practice of defending federal statutes even if the administration disagrees with the law, rights groups expressed disappointment [HRC press release] with the filing.
Likely buoyed by the result in Massachusetts, in November other rights groups filed multiple suits challenging the constitutionality of DOMA [JURIST report]. Consistent with its statement in this most recent brief, the Obama administration has extended some federal benefits [JURIST report] to same-sex couples, including allowing domestic partners to be added to insurance programs, to use medical facilities, and to be included in family size and house allocation considerations. In June, Obama ordered executive agencies to expand [JURIST report] federal childcare subsidies and services and travel and relocation payments to the same-sex partners of federal employees and their children.