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More Judges Say DOMA Unconstitutional
June 13, 2011 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Today, Judge Donovan of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles ruled [link is to pdf of decision] that DOMA is unconstitutional. 19 judges join his opinion. posted by insectosaurus (35 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Two highlights:

"In the court’s final analysis, the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land in regard to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence or the law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment with respect to the thoughts expressed in this decision. The court has no doubt about its conclusion: the Debtors have made their case persuasively that DOMA deprives them of the equal protection of the law to which they are entitled. "

"The Debtors have demonstrated that DOMA violates their equal protection rights afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, either under heightened scrutiny or under rational basis review. Debtors also have demonstrated that there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA. In the end, the court finds that DOMA violates the equal protection rights of the Debtors as recognized under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment."

Well, that's a judicial smackdown (and so heavily supported by the bench overall, too). In the end, it doesn't appear even to have been close.
posted by jaduncan at 8:39 PM on June 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


(Low level court, admittedly).
posted by jaduncan at 8:40 PM on June 13, 2011


Thanks for the highlights @jadunca

America is on the right path. There is hope.
posted by David-lib at 8:42 PM on June 13, 2011


If it gets knocked down because of a bankruptcy case, I will be happy. Surprised, but happy.

Either equal protection is equal, or it isn't.
posted by rtha at 8:43 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


That is hot stuff.

So what's the kock-on effect of this, legally? Does it just mean that married gay couples can now apply for bankruptcy joint filings, or does it undercut (sect 3? of) DOMA in other contexts?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:43 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


ha. that should be "knock-on" effect.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 PM on June 13, 2011


Why that court? Because DOMA is morally bankrupt?
posted by msalt at 8:47 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


msalt, it was in bankruptcy court because a same-sex couple (legally married in CA) filed a joint bankruptcy petition. Bankruptcy court is federal, so DOMA applies. The issue was whether they could proceed with a joint petition (because they are validly married), or would have to file separate petitions.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:48 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


And they got Capone on tax evasion. This may be an odd route to take to get DOMA struck down, but it succeeds, it doesn't really matter how they got there.
posted by gofargogo at 8:53 PM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


For two LGBT-focused news sites, the main links do a poor job of explaining the context and implications of this ruling. Who was arguing the other side of the case? What effect does the ruling have, especially since it apparently addresses only Section 3? When do those effects occur? Is it up for appeal? Etc.

Just wondering if this is a Big Deal in terms of precedents and appeals like Perry v. Schwarzenegger or if it's more of a limited, symbolic victory.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:53 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope this sticks. I'm more and more optimistic about this all the time.
posted by Forktine at 8:54 PM on June 13, 2011


Who was arguing the other side of the case?

The United States Trustee for the region was arguing the other side of the case.
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on June 13, 2011


This is an interesting and readable decision that supplants a strange pontification about sacrificing goats to Roman gods that was previously my favorite decision from a U.S. Bankruptcy court.

The court here relied heavily on a few factors: For one, help came from a sympathetic Obama-Holder DOJ that has clearly done some quiet work behind the scenes to both encourage the courts to reject arguments based on DOMA and shore up any arguments in that decision. Two, the failure of Congress, after filing an initial motion, failing to provide an argument in favor of
the Trustee's dismissal speaks volumes. Three, the bold argument by the Debtors' that this violates an implicit equal protection guarantee under the fifth amendment built a convincing argument that this was fundamentally a constitutional challenge. Four, the court synthesized a compelling survey of disparate case law that solidly supported rejecting the trustee's motion, including extensive quotes from Griswold v. Connecticut on marriage and Justice Jackson's argument for less strict standards in equal protection challenges as opposed to due process ones.

It's nice to see such a solid smackdown of such an egregious instance of discrimination in such an often ignored corner of American jurisprudence.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:29 PM on June 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Interesting. How often do bankruptcy judges declare statutes unconstitutional? The 19 other judges joining the ruling must also be very unusual in bankruptcy court.
posted by grouse at 9:29 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn you formatting and punctuation! Please excuse my drunken iPhone posting on account of the Canucks embarassingly weak road game making me retreat to politicsfilter distraction.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


a strange pontification about sacrificing goats to Roman gods
Link, please?
posted by Flunkie at 9:35 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just gonna ask what Flunkie asked!
posted by rtha at 9:36 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


For two LGBT-focused news sites, the main links do a poor job of explaining the context and implications of this ruling. Who was arguing the other side of the case? What effect does the ruling have, especially since it apparently addresses only Section 3? When do those effects occur? Is it up for appeal? Etc.

Just wondering if this is a Big Deal in terms of precedents and appeals like Perry v. Schwarzenegger or if it's more of a limited, symbolic victory.

The other side was the United States Trustee, and thus the DoJ in a noticeably terrible set of arguments. The logic is central to all of DOMA. The ruling is only binding on that district's bankruptcy courts. The effect in precedent is instant (and the 19 judges joining is a *huge* signal about what they want). It's another straw in the wind, but if the Supremes take a DOMA case this is nothing to that. The direct importance depends on what appeals do or don't happen, the indirect importance (and this is arguably more interesting) is that the DoJ does not appear to want to fight for DOMA with any enthusiasm whatsoever. That means the larger cases might not be defended well either, which would be an open goal for anti-DOMA arguments.

Interesting. How often do bankruptcy judges declare statutes unconstitutional? The 19 other judges joining the ruling must also be very unusual in bankruptcy court.

Super-dooper unusual to have constitutional issues.
posted by jaduncan at 9:38 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This may be the case [expletive deleted] was referring to.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 10:13 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


My heart just skips a beat every time I read news like this. But I've learned not to get my hopes up. It's hard to have them smashed so regularly.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:18 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is indeed the case to which I refer.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:19 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fox News report: Homosexuals want to take away your marriage, when they can't even pay their own bills!
posted by orthogonality at 12:34 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


What gofargogo said, doesn't matter on what technicality it's struck down on, as long as it's taken off the books. Good news, slow progress, but still progress.
posted by arcticseal at 1:45 AM on June 14, 2011


This is awesome. My dad is a bankruptcy lawyer in California and has been saying for years that one of the more promising avenues for challenging DOMA would be via the bankruptcy courts in a state that has domestic partnerships or gay marriage. The basic problem is that, in a domestic partnership, which is given out by the state, assets and debts are generally comingled for the purposes of bankruptcy, but the federal bankruptcy courts are prohibited from recognizing the marriage or partnership by DOMA. What he has done in the past for his clients is to just list all of the couple's assets under one parter and file them both more or less simultaneously. The trustees in CA have seen all this before and just kind of recognize that the couple is effectively filing together even though one guy lists all the debts and assets and the other lists none.

Whether this goes anywhere in the bigger picture or not, it's another small step for equality, which is always great news.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:28 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Such clear, rational writing in that opinion:
In the court’s final analysis, the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land in regard to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence or the law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment with respect to the thoughts expressed in this decision.
We should turn this into a poster and start a wheat-paste campaign.
posted by Mister_A at 5:10 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


What I find even more exciting is that the court applied heightened scrutiny. More please! Even Lawrence avoided doing that.
posted by prefpara at 7:09 AM on June 14, 2011


The 19 other judges joining the ruling must also be very unusual in bankruptcy court.

And kind of strikes me as not a real thing. Like, you are a judge on a case or you aren't. If you aren't, can you really add your random opinion to cases?
posted by smackfu at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2011


morally bankrupt

Yay!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:21 AM on June 14, 2011


Because I am physically unable to punch every supporter of DOMA in the kisser, I have to cheer these small, legal slaps to their idiotic faces.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fantastic. Should and could have happened long ago. One of the major deficits of our court system ... which often delivers real justice once it becomes involved ... is that too often unjust laws stay in place far too long.

It often seems to me that their willingness to deliver justice is more about what's blowing in the winds of public opinion than in the higher principles we wish they'd apply more often.
posted by Twang at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2011


One more straw for the camels back.
posted by msbutah at 11:24 AM on June 14, 2011


U.S. Bankruptcy Court

...determines that DOMA is constitutionally bankrupt.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2011


And the Volokh Conspiracy thread. I figured they'd get to this one.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on June 14, 2011


In other news: Gay jurist in Proposition 8 case had no legal obligation to remove himself, judge rules
posted by homunculus at 2:39 PM on June 14, 2011


homunculus: "In other news: Gay jurist in Proposition 8 case had no legal obligation to remove himself, judge rules"

A good point I saw on Reddit earlier: If Walker's judgment should be overturned on conflict of interest grounds due to his sexuality, shouldn't Congress's vote to extend the Bush tax cuts be overturned on the grounds that most who voted for it are millionaires?
posted by Rhaomi at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


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