Commonwealth v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., No. 10-2214 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1 U.S.C. 7, denies federal economic and other benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts and to surviving spouses from those couples, by defining "marriage" as "only a legal union between one man and one woman." "Spouse" refers "only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." DOMA absolves states from recognizing same-sex marriages solemnized in other states; prevents same-sex married couples from filing joint federal tax returns, affecting tax burdens; prevents a surviving same-sex spouse from collecting Social Security survivor benefits; leaves federal employees unable to share health insurance and other benefits with same-sex spouses. DOMA may result in loss of federal funding of programs such as Medicaid and veterans cemeteries if states recognize same-sex marriages in determining income or allowing burials. The district court declared Section 3 unconstitutional. The First Circuit affirmed, but stayed injunctive relief, anticipating certiorari review. The court applied "a closer than usual review" based on discrepant impact among married couples and on the importance of state interests in regulating marriage and tested the rationales for DOMA, considering Supreme Court precedent limiting which rationales can be counted and the force of certain rationales.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on June 7, 2012.