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Massachusetts sues on DOMA
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Massachusetts sues on DOMA

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Massachusetts is suing the U.S. government over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The commonwealth announced July 8 that it is seeking federal benefits for its legally married Gay and Lesbian couples, which the 1996 DOMA status forbids.

Massachusetts was the first state to recognize equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, granting licenses starting in May 2004. Although thousands of same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts and are fully equal under the commonwealth's laws, they are denied such essentials as equal Social Security benefits for surviving spouses, joint tax filing, and equal family and medical leave, to name a few. The commonwealth argues that although same-sex couples in Massachusetts pay equal federal taxes, the state can only receive funding for such programs as Medicaid and veterans cemeteries if it creates two, separate classes of married people: those who receive equal access and those who do not.

The lawsuit alleges that DOMA denies "essential rights and protections" to Gay married couples and claims that DOMA violates state sovereignty over the legal definition of marriage. The lawsuit, which names the United States and the Secretaries and Departments of veterans affairs and Health and Human Services as defendants, marks the first time the state has challenged the federal government's discriminatory treatment of its LGBT citizens.

"The commonwealth has presented the court with stark facts of discrimination that should finally spell the end of DOMA," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Excluding our families from equal protections never had anything to do with promoting a legitimate interest, and has everything to do with discrimination."

Five states now legally marry same-sex couples, but these couples are denied federal protections and programs available to married straight couples.

"DOMA was wrong, discriminatory, and mean-spirited when it was enacted in 1996, and today it stands between thousands of married couples and the equal protections they deserve," Solmonese said. "We applaud the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for stepping forward on behalf of these families and saying, in essence, 'enough is enough.' Now it is time for the federal government to take affirmative steps to challenge and repeal this discriminatory law that causes real harm to loving, married couples and their children."

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