As we celebrate the beginning of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, I am pleased to share that a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston unanimously ruled on May 31, 2012 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the constitutional rights of legally married gay and lesbian couples to equal treatment under the law. According to Judge Michael Boudin, "Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest." Simply put, DOMA interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay and lesbian couples federal benefits given to married heterosexual couples.
This ruling in favor of marriage equality follows an announcement in February 2011 by President Obama and Attorney General Holder that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer defend DOMA in court, having also determined a crucial provision of the law to be unconstitutional. And while I am hopeful that the case against DOMA will ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court, our work is far from over. We have a responsibility to ensure that that our laws recognize the equal rights of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
I have long asserted that DOMA is not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable and fundamentally unfair. From filing a joint tax return, to sharing health care coverage with a spouse, to receiving Social Security survivor benefits, all Americans should have equal access to the over 1,100 critical benefits and protections that marriage provides under federal law. I applaud this ruling, as well as President Obama's recent decision to formally support marriage equality, and will continue working together with my colleagues in Congress and civil rights leaders to repeal DOMA in its entirety.