Today, Massachusetts proved that it continues to be a leader in the fight for gay rights. A lawsuit against the federal government was announced today by Attorney General Martha Coakley, who argued that the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is a “discriminatory, unprecedented, and…unconstitutional law.”

The suit alleges that “In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people.”

DOMA, which was signed in 1996 by former president Bill Clinton, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Since then, six states–including Massachusetts, which was the first to do so–have legalized same-sex marriage.

One concern about DOMA raised by supporters of same-sex marriage lies in the fact that same-sex married couples do not receive the same benefits as heterosexual married couples, including hospital visitation, social security payments, federal income tax credits, property inheritance, health insurance coverage, Medicaid, family leave, and pensions.

But despite the absence of such rights to same-sex married couples, supporters of DOMA see the core issue as the protection of the “traditional” family.

President of the Massachusetts Family Institute Kris Mineau told the Boston Globe that the lawsuit will have “no credibility in the federal courts.”

The Institute’s website states that the “primary purpose of marriage is…procreation, [so] marriage can only be the union of a man and a woman.” The site claims that the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage is a “travesty” and that its “endorsement of motherless and fatherless families is both reckless and dangerous.”

But supporters of the suit, including Boston’s Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which filed its own lawsuit on March 3rd of this year, see DOMA as interfering with different tradition: the “division of power between the federal and state governments.”

Gary Buseck, GLAD’s Legal Director, says in a statement on the group’s website that “DOMA represents an…intrusion by the federal government into the traditional and historical power of the states to make determinations of marital status. By refusing to recognize any marriage of same-sex couples”"and by denying these couples access to all federal rights, protections and responsibilities related to marriage”"the federal government steps in and overrides these state-sanctioned marriages.”

Buseck praises both Coakley and Massachusetts for continuing the state’s “long tradition as a national civil rights leader” and “move to protect legally married same-sex couples from…federal discrimination.”

About The Author

Shannon O'Neill is a senior editor at Bombshell.

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