Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mass Attorney General files Motion for Judgement in DOMA Challenge

The Massachusetts General filed a pre-trial motion for judgement on the complaint in the constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the Federal District Court in Eastern Massachusetts. The case is known as Commonwealth v. Sebelius, et al. The Boston Globe carried a short story yesterday by Denise Lavoie:

Coakley’s office filed a lawsuit in July challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In court papers filed in US District Court on Thursday, Coakley asked a judge to deem the law unconstitutional without holding a trial on the lawsuit.

Coakley argues that regulating marital status has traditionally been left to the states. She said the federal law treats married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently; for instance, when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits and when determining whether the spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veterans cemetery.

The law forces Massachusetts “to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs,’’ Coakley said in the court filing.

“Massachusetts cannot receive or retain federal funds if it gives same-sex and different-sex spouses equal treatment, namely by authorizing the burial of a same-sex spouse in a federally funded veterans’ cemetery and by recognizing the marriages of same-sex spouses in assessing eligibility for Medicaid health benefits,’’ she said.

The filing was made in response to a motion by the US Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuit and to support Coakley’s request to declare the law unconstitutional without holding a trial.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that the marriage act is discriminatory and wants Congress to repeal it. But the Justice Department has said it has an obligation to defend laws enacted by Congress while they are on the books.
Lawyers recognize these motions as civil procedure 101 type motions that have to be made at the beginning of civil actions to cover all the bases. Here is Coakley's original pleading from her website: link to PDF of Complaint. Here is a link to search more filings through Here is a link for the ACLU's contributions, including a downloadable amicus brief in Sebelius.

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