For Immediate Release - July 24, 2012

AG Coakley Asks Supreme Court to Uphold Appeals Court Decision Striking Down DOMA as Unconstitutional

Files Brief Responding to Defendants’ Request for Review by U.S. Supreme Court

Statement by Attorney General Martha Coakley:

“The Defense of Marriage Act is a discriminatory and unconstitutional law that harms thousands of families in Massachusetts and takes away our state’s right to extend marriage equality to all couples. It is our firm conviction that in order to truly achieve marriage equality all couples must enjoy the same rights and protections under both state and federal law.  If the Supreme Court chooses to examine this case, we will look forward to once again making clear that DOMA and its pervasive discrimination is unconstitutional and should be ended.”

 

Background:

The AG’s Office has filed a brief pdf format of Response to Petitions for Certiorari (2012)
with the U.S. Supreme Court in response to a defense request for review of the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.  In its brief, the AG asks the Supreme Court to uphold rulings by lower courts that found DOMA unconstitutional.

In 2009, under Attorney General Martha 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 Court, which was appealed by the defendants to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  On May 31, 2012, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling .  On June 29, 2012, the defendants requested certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to review and hear arguments.  The AG’s Office filed a reply brief with the Supreme Court asking the Court to uphold the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional.

This matter is being handled by Maura T. Healey, Chief of the Attorney General’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, Jonathan B. Miller, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, and AAG Joshua Jacobson of the Civil Rights Division, with pro bono assistance of Mark C. Fleming, Felicia H. Ellsworth, Brian J. Boyle Jr, Alan Schoenfeld, and Margaret E. O’Grady from the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

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