A JP win in Supreme Court DOMA decision

July 5, 2013
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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 struck down a core section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that previously had been successfully challenged by Jamaica Plain residents.

DOMA unconstitutional benefits provision banned same-sex married couples from receiving various benefits that opposite-sex married couples do.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 DOMA is an unconstitutional law that violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to equal protection under the law and due process, as well as the states’ rights to oversee marriage. The case, United States v. Windsor, involved a New York woman who was denied the federal estate tax exemption when her spouse, who also was a woman, died. The government denied the tax exemption due to DOMA, which bans same-sex couples from receiving more than 1,000 formal benefits, even though the state of New York officially recognized the marriage.

In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said that the fundamental reason DOMA was created was to perpetuate a “stigma” against gay people.

Last year’s Massachusetts case involving JP couple Bette Jo Green and Jo Ann Whitehead was among those considered likely for Supreme Court review. But the court instead chose to rule in the Windsor case, which resolves the DOMA issue in all similar cases.

Green and Whitehead said they are “thrilled with the decision” in an email to the Gazette.

In another same-sex marriage ruling June 26, the Supreme Court essentially halted a legal fight against same-sex marriage in California.

The legal battle for same-sex marriage rights in the United States and the world started in Boston about 10 years ago with a lawsuit filed by a group of plaintiffs that included several JP couples.

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