For Immediate Release - May 31, 2012

Statement From Attorney General Martha Coakley on Today's First Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Affirming that the Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

“Today’s landmark ruling makes clear once again that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second-class marriages, and it does harm to families in Massachusetts every day. All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”


In 2009, under Attorney General Coakley’s direction, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to file a complaint alleging that DOMA, which affects more than 1,100 federal statutory provisions, violates the United States Constitution by interfering with the Commonwealth’s sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.  The complaint also alleged that DOMA exceeds Congress’s authority under the Spending Clause because Congress does not have a valid reason for requiring Massachusetts to treat married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples, and that it unlawfully requires Massachusetts to disregard valid marriages in its implementation of federally funded programs. 

In July 2010, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by the United States District, which was appealed by the defendants to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Today’s decision affirms the District Court decision. 

This matter is being handled by Maura T. Healey, Chief of the Attorney General’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, and Jonathan B. Miller, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.

DOMA Decision pdf format of First Circuit Decision (2012)