Another federal district court judge has held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
Judge Claudia Wilken, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, held yesterday that both DOMA and a federal tax provision unconstitutionally hinder same-sex married couples’ and domestic partners’ ability to participate in the long-term care plan offered by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS).
Judge Wilken’s opinion is the most expansive to date on this issue because it also holds that domestic partners must be given equal treatment. In addition to finding that DOMA’s definition of “marriage” and “spouse” violates the equal protection rights of same-sex spouses, Judge Wilken goes further to find that an Internal Revenue Code provision “violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff registered domestic partners.”
This class-action suit was initiated by California public employees and their same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners who were denied CalPERS benefits because, even if CalPERS wanted to give same-sex married couples and domestic partners equal access to its benefits, doing so would disqualify the state program from receiving favorable tax-treatment.
Click here to read the full court opinion.
Focusing on DOMA’s inherent hostility towards gays and lesbians, Judge Wilken concluded that DOMA is in no way rationally related to a legitimate government interest and that
“Singling out same-sex spouses for exclusion from the federal definition of marriage amounts to a bare expression of animus on the basis of sexual orientation.”
It is encouraging to have a growing group of federal judges agree that DOMA violates the equal protection rights of same-sex spouses (and, now, registered domestic partners). Though our work will continue until DOMA is decisively overturned, each important step forward--like Judge Wilken's ruling--brings us closer to the goal of full federal equality for same-sex couples and their families.