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February 22: Defense of Marriage Act Declared Unconstitutional

February 22, 2013

[caption id="attachment_15197" align="alignright" width="300"] Amy Cunninghis and Karen Golinski[/caption]

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California determined on this date in 2012 that the key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. That ruling came in response to a suit by Karen Golinski, a lawyer for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Jewdayo has not been able to determine if she is Jewish), after her application for health benefits for her wife, Amy Cunninghis, was denied. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a son of Holocaust survivors who was appointed to the bench in 1985 by Ronald Reagan, had ruled in 2009 that Golinski was entitled to spousal health benefits, but President Obama's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) refused to comply with his ruling, which he made in an administrative rather than judicial capacity. In 2011, however, the Justice Department filed a brief in support of Golinski's suit, and when the case came before the district court, Judge Jeffrey White (a Bush-appointee who is a long-time synagogue member) ruled that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantees. [Update: On June 26, 2013, in a 5-4 majority ruling the Supreme Court overturned the part of DOMA that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples.]

"[C]onsiderations of discrimination against people based on sexual orientation should be held to heightened scrutiny." —Judge Jeffrey White

"It seems to me that this is what makes this country truly great — we can have a judiciary where the person who appoints you doesn't own you." —Judge Alex Kozinski