By JOSH GERSTEIN |
2/22/12 5:03 PM EST
Another federal judge has found unconstitutional a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law which forbids providing federal government benefits to same-sex spouses.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White, who sits in San Francisco and was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, issued the ruling Wednesday afternoon in a case involving federal judicial law clerk Karen Golinski’s request for benefits for her female spouse. White said the stated goals of DOMA, passed in 1996 and signed by President Bill Clinton, could not pass muster under a so-called “heightened scrutiny” test or even a lower “rational basis” threshhold.
“The imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority upon a minority cannot provide a justification for the legislation. The obligation of the Court is ‘to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code,'” White wrote. “Tradition alone, however, cannot form an adequate justification for a law….The ‘ancient lineage” of a classification does not render it legitimate….Instead, the government must have an interest separate and apart from the fact of tradition itself.”
White’s 43-page decision (posted here) is similar to a ruling from a federal judge in Massachusetts in 2010, who also struck down an aspect of DOMA.
In White’s ruling, he also gave an unusual back of the hand to the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, Alex Kozinski, who ruled at an earlier administrative stage of the dispute that federal personnel managers had authority to cover Golinski’s spouse as a non-spousal member of her family. White called that reasoning “unpersuasive.”
The case is one of those that lawyers hired by Congress defended after President Barack Obama and the Justice Department declined to do so, stating that they believed the statute to be unconstitutional.
LINK TO DECISION: