For Immediate Release - December 07, 2012

Statement from Attorney General Martha Coakley on Today’s Supreme Court Decision to Hear DOMA and Same-Sex Marriage Cases

“We believe that the First Circuit’s ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act was correct and we look forward to the time when that discriminatory law is conclusively invalidated. Though the Supreme Court has chosen to take up the issue of DOMA’s constitutionality in another case – Windsor v. United States – my office will continue to work hard to support the parties involved. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will decide, once and for all, that DOMA’s discrimination is unjustifiable and wrong. ”

BACKGROUND:

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 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. 

In July 2012, AG Coakley filed a reply brief 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 DOMA as unconstitutional. In its brief, the AG asked the Supreme Court to uphold rulings by lower courts that found DOMA 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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