Thursday, March 29, 2012

Appeals Court will hear DOMA arguments next Wednesday

Photo caption: Same-sex couple Nowlin Haltom, left, and Michael McKeon hold a sign calling for the right to marry outside the county clerk's office in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day.

The Washington Blade reports that the First Court of Appeals in Boston will hear oral arguments about the matter next week.

On Wednesday starting at 10 a.m., a three-judge panel on the First Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, marking the first time an appellate court has considered the constitutionality of the statute.

Normally, oral arguments before the court last 30 minutes, but that time has been extended for an entire hour because judges are hearing two cases: Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services, filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The arguments that attorneys will make before judges will likely reflect the basis of the lawsuits they filed. GLAD contends that DOMA violates its plaintiffs’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause, while the State of Massachusetts has said DOMA interferes with a state’s Tenth Amendment right to regulate marriage. The Justice Department will likely join in these arguments.

On the other side, [Paul] Clement will likely argue that DOMA is justified because it ensures uniformity with marriage laws and that marriage should be reserved for opposite-sex couples to ensure procreation.

Towleroad adds: Of the three judges on the panel, one, Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, was nominated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. The other two, Judges Juan Torruella and Michael Boudin were nominated by Ronald Reagan and GHW Bush.

There's no timeline on when they will deliver their verdict, but I'd bet dollars to donuts President Obama hopes it's before the election: that way his administration, which opposes DOMA, can claim a gay win without having to come out whole-heartedly for marriage equality.

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