A federal judge in Washington state last week upheld the federal Defense of Marriage Act as constitutional, marking the first time a federal court has ruled on the 1996 law, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
“The case for same-sex marriage has been undermined,” said Glen Lavy, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal group that opposes homosexual “marriage” and recently lost a state case in Washington on the issue. “The bottom line message is … same-sex marriage is not inevitable in this country. We can win this battle.”
The federal case involved a lesbian couple who had “married” in Canada and filed jointly for bankruptcy in their home state of Washington.
Their joint filing was opposed since they didn’t fit the federal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. After one of the women died, the other woman fought for their joint bankruptcy filing by challenging DOMA, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
Mr. Lavy explained that with a joint bankruptcy filing, “the deceased woman’s assets would go to the other woman, rather than to the creditors.”
In a decision issued Tuesday from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tacoma, Wash., federal bankruptcy Judge Paul B. Snyder ruled that DOMA is indeed constitutional and that it “does not violate the principles of comity, or the Fourth, Fifth, or Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
Judge Snyder also wrote, “DOMA does not burden a fundamental right, nor target a suspect class.”
The case only challenged federal DOMA’s definition of marriage. It did not involve the other half of the law, which says states can’t be forced to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states.
Lara Schwartz, senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said the federal judge’s decision is “obviously disappointing” to those who believe that “all American families deserve the same legal protections.” But she said the overall “case for marriage equality … is as clear as it’s always been.”
Ms. Schwartz said any federal court ruling is “significant” because it helps build a body of law on the topic, but she predicted there will be conflicting federal court rulings on DOMA and the same-sex “marriage” issue will eventually end up before the Supreme Court.
Both sides agree that’s true.
“This is ultimately going to wind up in the Supreme Court, and the court has already signaled where they’re headed,” said Alliance for Marriage President Matt Daniels, who argues that the high court’s previous decisions indicate it will eventually invalidate traditional marriage.
Both sides also note that it’s very early in the legal battle over DOMA and same-sex “marriage” and that many times it takes years and years for an issue to progress through the federal courts.
“Any time a judge rules in your favor, it’s a good thing … but it’s still early in the process,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil liberties advocacy group. He noted that even the Washington bankruptcy case may not be over yet and probably will be appealed to the liberal-leaning 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
And Mr. Daniels predicted there will be numerous challenges to DOMA after the election. Currently, there are two challenges to DOMA in Florida and numerous challenges to state laws on traditional marriage.
Mr. Lavy said the national effort to stop same-sex “marriage” from happening is still desperately needed.
“We still need a federal effort, because we need a unified solution,” Mr. Lavy said. “The other side is not going to quit until there’s a unified solution. And neither will we.”
In his ruling, Judge Snyder specifically refers to a recently decided Washington state case that successfully challenged the state law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Mr. Lavy’s group defended the state law and lost but is planning to appeal the case.
Judge Snyder wrote that “this court disagrees with the contrary conclusion recently reached by the Superior Court for King County, Washington … where it was determined that there is a fundamental right to marry someone of the same sex.”