Federal District Court Judge Tosses Key Parts of DoMA (Defense of Marriage Act)

A Massachusetts Federal District Court Judge has ruled that key parts of DoMA, including the part that denies same sex married couples the ability to file a joint tax return to be unconstitutional.
Summary of the case: http://www.slate.com/id/2260039 http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/07/judge_declares_3.html
Text of Case: http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opinions/tauro/pdf/gill%20et%20al%20v%20opm%20et%20al%20sj%20memo.pdf
or
http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/cases/2010-07-08-gill-district-court-decision.pdf
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Interesting. Will the defendants appeal, I wonder.
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On 7/12/10 7:51 PM, Bill Brown wrote:

As the defendants were all departments and/or agencies representing the United States of America, for all intents and purposes, they have no choice but to appeal as the court ruled that the guts of a federal statute is unconstitutional..... and.... as that statute appears to have considerable support by the voting population, the government would have to appeal.
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On Jul 13, 1:07pm, Alan wrote:

Not necessarily. There are tactical considerations. At the moment the case applies only to MA residents. If they appeal and lose, it then applies to the entire Circuit. They may see a case elsewhere in the system that they think would be better. Sometimes they also seek input from affected agencies. I think that the agencies would want to try to get this mess to the Supremes as quickly as possible, because two sets of rules is an administrative nightmare, even if it applies to only one state. I remember problems from my IRS days dealing with much narrower issues when there were split Circuits.
I think they will appeal since the President has publicly called for repeal of the law. I don't see that they have a choice politically.
Phil Marti
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According to http://tax.cchgroup.com/news/headlines/2010/nws071310.htm#2 it looks like it applies to everyone.

This doesn't make sense. If the president wants the same benefits for same-sex couples then he would be happy with the court's decision and would not appeal.
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In article

Make perfect sense. If he doesn't appeal then it is only in effect in a very small area. If he appeals and wins at the next level, it is for a wider area and then if the Supremes take it (and agree.. not necessarily a slam dunk) then it is effectively repealed.
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To be clear, if the government appeals and LOSES their appeal at the next level, then the geographic applicability of the decision increases.
This is one of those charming idiosyncrasies of how our government works. The executive branch, which includes the justice department, is legally required to defend and enforce laws passed by Congress, so even if the executive branch (i.e., the president) doesn't agree with a particular law, it is still their responsibility to defend it in court.
Legally speaking, what they could do at this point is (a) accept the court's ruling and proclaim that they don't see any legitimate grounds for appeal, thus leaving the ruling applicable only to the limited jurisdiction of the court which made it, (b) appeal the decision with the hope and expectation that it will be upheld on appeal, helping that to occur by mounting a lackluster appeal, or (c) appeal the decision with the hope and expectation that it will be overturned on appeal, putting time and effort into trying to ensure that happens.
Given the president's position on DOMA, (c) is unlikely. Whether they'll do (a) or (b) depends on their calculation of how likely it is that the ruling will be upheld on appeal. There's lots of strategy and planning that goes into figuring that out, but it's by no means a sure thing.
The other interesting wrinkle is that they have to be very careful about just how far they take the appeals, since given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, it's a very large tossup whether the ruling will be upheld or overturned if it makes it there.
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On Jul 14, 11:49am, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com" wrote:

And here's a link that says it doesn't. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/12/AR2010071205306.html
One of the lawyers who posts here could do a better job than I of explaining the nationwide effect of a District Court decision.
Phil Marti
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I read the text at that URL and see nothing there indicating that the ruling applies to same-sex couples residing outside the jurisdiction of the court that made the ruling.
I would be very surprised the ruling applied outside the jurisdiction, as that's very much not how the federal courts work.
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The opinion of a federal district court isn't precedent, merely guidance that may not be noted at an unrelated trial. It's unconstitutional with regard to the plaintiffs but no one else.
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MANAGEMENT? But a footnote says
2 Defendants in this action are the Office of Personnel Management; the United States Postal Service; John E. Potter, in his official capacity as the Postmaster General of the United States of America; Michael J. Astrue, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration; Eric H. Holder, Jr., in his individual capacity as the United States Attorney General; and the United States of America. Hereinafter, this court collectively refers to the Defendants as the government.
It's strange why the postmaster general is named as a defendant.
So maybe whether or not they will appeal depends on what the defendants think of ruling, and also perhaps on calculations of how it will affect the November elections. I can't speculate on what they will do, and have no idea what will happen.
If same-sex couples were to have social security survivorship benefits, any idea how much that might cost?
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Look at page 6 of the original memo. One of the plaintiffs works for the PO and wants to add her wife to her employer health coverage, which she could do if they were of different genders.

They'll certainly appeal. The question is whether the circuit court or SCOTUS will accept the appeal.
R's, John
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Circuit courts don't have a choice.
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In article

Because one of the plaintiffs is a postal worker, and USPS denied spousal benefits to her wife. Fom the decision: "Plaintiff Nancy Gill, an employee of the United States Postal Service, seeks to add her spouse, Marcelle Letourneau, as a beneficiary under Ms. Gills existing self and family enrollment in the FEHB, to add Ms. Letourneau to FEDVIP, and to use her flexible spending account for Ms. Letourneaus medical expenses." [p. 7]
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On Jul 13, 7:00pm, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com" <removeps-

As an aside, in preparing tax returns for one of my same sex (female) married couples, the parents of twins (artificial insemination), filed Federal returns as single people, each claiming one of the children. The same status was claimed on their NJ tax returns. It didn't take long for NJ to audit, and change, the return to a Married/CU Couple filing jointly. Apparently, they have a set up which allows them to detect the status no matter how it is claimed with IRS. It seems to me that, when it comes to income tax, many of these couples might choose to remain single!!-:) Of course, they might then not benefit from other important features which that status creates.
Of course, if they were able to file a joint Federal tax return, preparation would be a much simpler process. (mo)
Another aside, in this case, the mother of the children had her last name changed to that of her partner.
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On Jul 13, 4:00pm, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com" <removeps-

According to http://speakout.com/activism/apstories/10044-1.html there were 1 million people who were members of same sex couples in 2000. If that number increases 4% a year, it should be 1.480 times more, or about 1.5 million people. So there are 750,000 couples. Did the 2010 census have this question too?
According to http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005055.html there are about 60 million couples, so 1.25% are same sex.
Then we need to know how much social security pays in survivorship benefits. Then multiply this amount by 1.25% to get the additional amount this would cost.
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On 2010/07/14 09:19, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

But you need to factor in the difference between collecting a survivor benefit vs. benefits based on your own earnings. My guess is that SSMC (same sex married couples) will see significantly fewer cases than average where survivor benefits are actually paid out, as I imagine in the vast majority that both spouses are working full-time throughout most of their lives.
-Mark Bole
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This is interesting. So are you saying that if both spouses made 100k a year (adjusted for inflation) for the last 30 years, then when one of them dies, the other would not get any survivorship benefits? I didn't see this rule anywhere, but it makes sense.
And if they had kids (for example, adopted kids, kids from surrogate mother, etc)? From the SSA website http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10084.html it looks like the kids may get survivorship benefits.
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On 2010/07/15 08:33, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Well, almost nothing about SS benefits would surprise me (such as, minor children of current recipients get their own benefits, for reasons I cannot imagine). But in general, I believe the survivor benefit is primarily meant to benefit the classic (or legacy, whatever term you prefer) case of a widow who was a stay-at-home mom, she can get benefits based on her deceased husband's earnings record.
But if your own benefits are already higher than what you would get based on your deceased spouse, no you don't get both sets of benefits.

Or, their own naturally born children.
-Mark Bole
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http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/07/judge_declares_3.html
http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opinions/tauro/pdf/gill%20et%20al%20v%20opm%20et%20al%20sj%20memo.pdf
http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/cases/2010-07-08-gill-district-court-decision.pdf
Is this really what same-sex couples wanted? To be subjected to the returning "marriage penalty" starting in 2011. They would probably be better off filing two single returns than a joint return.
I don't care that the ruling was technically correct. This was a bonehead move by the plaintiffs - a lose-lose situation. Their lawyer should be [shot or sued - tkae your pick] for malpractice.
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