Statement From A.G. Schneiderman On Court Decision Ruling Federal "Defense Of Marriage Act" Is Unconstitutional

NEW YORK – The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled today that Section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it discriminates against married same-sex couples. Last month, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed a friend-of-the-court brief together with Vermont and Connecticut arguing that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and should be more closely scrutinized because it constitutes a sweeping intrusion into the States’ regulation of marriage. The Court agreed today, holding that DOMA is subject to intermediate scrutiny because it discriminates based on sexual orientation, and that DOMA’s defenders did not establish a sufficiently strong federal interest in DOMA’s rejection of same-sex marriages to pass constitutional muster. The Court observed that DOMA’s intrusion into the realm of State regulation, an argument we urged the Court adopt, was cause “to look upon Section 3 of DOMA with a cold eye.”

The following statement is attributable to Attorney General Schneiderman:

“Today’s decision is a major step forward in the fight for equality. I am pleased that the court recognized that the federal Defense of Marriage Act lacks an adequate justification and violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. As we argued in our brief in this case, the court examined the proposed justifications for the statute with special care, both because the statute burdens gay and lesbian married couples, and because it intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will continue to fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all New Yorkers.”

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