by Tara Siegel Bernard
Originally Published: May 31st, 2012
"A federal appeals court ruling on Thursday gave same-sex married couples hope that they may be closer to receiving the same federal benefits and recognition as their opposite-sex peers. But ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to decide.
Here are the details: A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act – the 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defines marriage as between one man and one woman — was unconstitutional. The appeals court upheld a lower court’s 2010 decision, where the plaintiffs in two separate cases, which involve seven couples and three individuals, had been denied federal benefits like Social Security payments and the right to file taxes jointly.
The reason the decision is important to gay couples is that it is the first challenge to the anti-gay marriage law, known as DOMA, for the Defense of Marriage Act, to reach a federal appeals court, just a step away from the Supreme Court.
The ruling has been stayed for now, which means it has been delayed since an appeal is likely, according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who represented the plaintiffs. In fact, if the latest ruling were not stayed, the unions of same-sex couples in the appeals court’s jurisdiction — which covers Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine and Puerto Rico — would have been recognized by the federal government. That means that same-sex couples in just one corner of the country would have been eligible for the same federal benefits that heterosexual married couples receive, a messy situation."
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@nytimes here: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/a-ruling-gives-gay-couples-hope-for-financial-equality/