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Massachusetts petitions Supreme Court to review DOMA challenge

Massachusetts officials on Tuesday filed two documents in the US Supreme Court [official website] challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. Attorney General Martha Coakley argued in her brief [text, PDF] that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment as well as the Spending Clause (Article I, Section 8) [Cornell LII backgrounders]. In addition, state officials filed another petition [text, PDF] last Friday "out of abundance of caution" in the event that the court determines that it needs a cross-petition to review the issues raised in the brief. The state's claim under the Tenth Amendment states that DOMA's national definition of marriage binding to all states is an intrusion into state's traditional power to regulate marriage:

DOMA is an impermissible federal intrusion into the Commonwealth's regulation of marriage, which this Court has consistently recognized is a power exclusively reserved to the States. Whereas most States recognize a single marital status that is given effect under federal law, DOMA effectively divides marriage in Massachusetts into two different statuses: married for all purposes for different-sex spouses, and married but "federally single" for same-sex spouses. This federal interference in the State regulation of domestic relations is unprecedented in the Nation's history and violates the Tenth Amendment.
The first of the two arguments brought forth by the state under the Spending Clause challenge claims that DOMA forces the state to discriminate in order to receive federal funds for the Medicaid program of medical care for the elderly and disabled and for the federal program of grants to state-operated cemeteries. Massachusetts argues that such imposition of conditions is beyond Congress' power under the Spending Clause. With the second argument, the state claims that treating legally married same-sex couples as non-married couples does not have any relationship with the state's eligibility of receiving such funds. The case has been docketed as 12-97, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services [case materials].

DOMA has faced numerous legal challenges recently. Last week an elderly New York woman petitioned [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to hear her challenge to DOMA. She was successful in suing the US government in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] which held [JURIST report] that section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional due to its violation of the principles of federalism. Earlier this month a lesbian couple sued [JURIST report] the government in the US District Court for the District of California [official website] seeking the same immigration rights for gay and lesbian couples as already afforded to heterosexual couples. Two days earlier, members of the US House of Representatives [official website] also filed [JURIST report] an amicus brief [text, PDF] with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] arguing against the constitutionality of DOMA.

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