Massachusetts to USA: Get Out of the Marriage Business, Yo

assachusetts So Massachusetts’ Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing something called the United States of America over the Defense of Marriage Act, specifically challenging the definition of marriage as that one man-one woman business. DOMA “constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law” according to the lawsuit, filed today in federal court in Boston. When Congress and President Clinton enacted DOMA, it was a reaction to same-sex marriage possibly coming to Hawaii — legislators and the president wanted to keep other states from being forced to recognize Hawaii’s gay unions. What DOMA also did, as we know, was give the federal government an excuse to ignore state recognition of same-sex marriage at the national level, killing federal benefits like health insurance, Social Security, and federal income tax credits. This lawsuit specifically attacks that clause, saying the federal government overreached in taking power away from the states, which had the final say in marriage recognition until DOMA. The AG’s lawsuit is actually the second federal challenge to DOMA to come out of Massachusetts (where gay marriage has been legal since 2004). The first came from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which today “applaud[ed]” Coakley’s filing. For you legal eagles, we’ve got the full complaint on Page 2.

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  • Jaroslaw

    Well, in non legal language- seems to me that whether or not you like Same Sex Marriage, if the issue is reserved to the states, then why would the Federal Goverment have any legislation on the issue?

    I’m surprised it took anyone so long to think of this.

  • M Shane

    This should certainly catch attention like not much of anything! I prefer Civil Unions, but kudos to Martha Coakly, I hope she succeeds; she will in some way to say the least.

  • Bertie

    hail massachusetts !

    freedom for all citizens will eventually come from the deeds of freethinkers like them and not from the office of our cowardly vile President Obama.

  • Jaroslaw

    #2 – what does this mean: This should certainly catch attention like not much of anything! (?)

    And I know you’ve posted here before, but Civil Unions as the law is presently consituted make you unequal and inferior to Marriage. Now, if you want to change the law to make everyone get Civil Unions, I’m with you.

    I just told a friend about this story and I expressed it this way- The Fed have NO business having any marriage legislation.
    The way it is at present it is like (the FEDS) saying – “OK Massachussetts, you can allow same sex marriage.” “But we’re not really going to allow you to decide, because we are going to withhold Federal benefits.” (SSM’s not recognized in other states, SS partners not getting RSDI etc.)

    Operating in the above way DOES NOT allow Massachusetts to decide on equal terms with other states WHO can get married. Hope this is clear.

  • Cam

    hey, Republicans should get behind this lawsuit. they ALWAYS are saying that the federal govt. takes too much pwer from the states and states need to be allowed more leeway in determining their own issues. Well they need to put their money where their mouth is now. Vote to get rid of DOMA, after all it is an inexcusable curb on states right to self determination.

  • M Shane

    DOMA specifies that recognition of S/S marriages some states are reserved to the individual states and do not apply nationally. What happens with specifying that an issue is specific to the states, is that ,as a corelary, federal benefits don’t apply because those marriages aren’t recognized across the board, so too fed benefits don’t.

  • Ian

    This is great news !!!!

    I’ve always thought that a better approach to marriage equality would be to overturn DOMA first, and then pass same-sex marriages at the state level.

    With DOMA still in place, even ultra liberal states where gay marriage is legal, such as Massachusetts, are forced to treat gays as second class citizens.

    We should focus on DOMA first and foremost, so that we can finally be equal, at least in liberal states, and enjoy THE EXACT SAME RIGHTS as our straight counterparts such as immigration rights, health insurance, Social Security, and federal income tax credits.

  • galefan2004

    Wow, this is a pleasant surprise. Suddenly, I want to move to MA even more. It will be exciting to see how this turns out, but I don’t really see how the USSC is going to dodge having hearings on this case. We might get to see another one of those attack briefs that the Obama DOJ is so famous for.

  • galefan2004

    @Jaroslaw: This isn’t a new concept. When DOMA was put up there was talk that it would be found unconstitutional for abusing state’s rights. This is just the first time a state had the balls to sue for its own rights in this matter.

  • Mr. Cox

    I bet Californians everywhere are slapping their heads thinking how ashamed they are to have signed onto the Aryan Race agenda with Prop 8 when in fact they could have been one of the few cool states acknowledging Marriage Equality. I live in San Francisco… I am so ashamed of my home state. The rednecks and Evangelical Nazis have truly done a number on our once dear state.

  • Jaroslaw

    #9 Galefan2004 – perhaps you are correct – but I did follow this issue, I thought, very closely and what I remember from the time DOMA was first conceived was that it violated the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

    The idea that the FED wasn’t really allowing the states to decide (based on the above reasoning) is, I thought new. But I may be wrong. THANKS

  • Jaroslaw

    Plus I agree with CAM post #5 – where are the “less government” rethuglicans when you REALLY need them…….

  • BrianZ


  • schlukitz

    Now, if a few of the other states where SSM is legal would just follow in Massachusetts footsteps…

  • FlopsyMopsyCT

    This is very good news. This argument is definitely not new. I’ve heard it many times from many of my profs in school. I think part of why they’re challenging DOMA at this point is because it’s a very opportune time to do so. More and more states have followed Mass’ lead and it’s a challenge that will most likely affect a great deal of states that have just entered into the SSM business.

    As for the argument itself, it’s very sound facially, but no doubt there will be great opposition. I am not a con law scholar so I don’t really know what the viable arguments against Mass would be. I hope it gets attention from the courts though.


    Yet another reason why I am so happy and so proud to be a MA resident!

  • strumpetwindsock

    Question to anyone who might know the legal fineries of this:

    If this lawsuit is successful would it shut the door on any future federal attempt to legalize same sex marriage?

    If so, I’m not so sure it is that great a trade-off.
    It seems like it will be great for federal employees in a few states, but beyond that it would leave all the states with anti-marriage equality laws stuck in the dark ages, where some of them will probably stay for decades. And it would still leave them free to NOT recognize out-of-state marriages.

    Or would a the success of this suit prevent the possibility/threat of a federal constitutional amendment – pro or anti SSM?

    Not taking sides, just wondering if anyone has answers to these questions.

  • DelphKC

    Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s all I have to say… 🙂

  • chichichi

    Massachusetts understands the higher road.

  • Jaroslaw

    #17 Strump – I’m not a lawyer but I do read a lot. Since the Constitution clearly says marriage issues are for the state, I don’t see how the Feds are involved at all.

    Also it seems DOMA clearly violates the full faith & credit clause in the Constitution, but various legal groups don’t want it challenged at this time for all the reasons you cite.

    This lawsuit is on a different basis so I don’t see how it would lead to what you mention in your paragraph three, other states not recognizing SSM is exactly what this suit wants to prevent if successful.

    Nothing would prevent any amendment to the Constitution if 2/3’s of the states ratify it – in theory we could get slavery back, since those laws affirming civil rights have to be re-signed every so often. I imagine the only thing that would not be allowed is something that is totally incongruous with the basic tenets – such as something that would interfere, just for example, with a basic “pursuit of happiness” etc.

  • Schteve

    @strumpetwindsock: Regardless of the outcome, there likely isn’t going to be any attempt at federally-performed marriages. There hasn’t been since it’s just up to states. Rather, what would happen upon DOMA’s repeal is that a same-sex couple that wants to get married but can’t in their home state can just take a quick trip to another where it is legal and the federal government will recognize that marriage as valid.

  • Tim and Earl

    Introduction of
    Pennsylvania Senate Bill SB935

    July 8, 2009
    Capitol Rotunda
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

    Timothy Hare:

    Good morning to the honorable Senator Leach and the many distinguished visitors.

    In response to the kind invitation of Senator Leach, Earl and I stand here today to briefly share our love story.

    We are grateful that Senator Daylin Leach found the courage to launch this historic journey to marriage equality for us all this day!

    I am Timothy George Hare, a Pennsylvania Architect and Architectural Historian.

    Beside me is my beloved, the Rev. Earl David Ball, who is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ Earl is the Director of Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy program in a Pennsylvania hospital in Bucks County.

    Our home is in beautiful, historic and colorful Easton, Pennsylvania.  

    Earl and I are simply a couple of Pennsylvanians who fell in love at first sight in 1976.

    We’ve been together these past 33 years — whether in sickness or in health, whether richer or poorer, whether rejected, shunned, or accepted by our families of origin and fellow Pennsylvanians. 

    Speaking of sickness, I remember an event 20 years ago when I had a heart attack.

    I realize now how important it could have been for Earl and I to be married in Pennsylvania where we live.  

    We were having breakfast Sunday morning at home and suddenly I fell to the floor with a coronary thrombosis – I didn’t know what it was. 

    We live a near a hospital.  Earl got me to the car and within 3 minutes we were in the ER. 

    A cardiologist was fortunately in the ER at the time and did all the usual things to keep me alive. 

    When I came to she said, “Do you know how lucky you are to be alive?  20 more seconds and we could not have saved you.” 

    So I nodded, ‘Yes, I know.’ 

    She saw my ring and immediately said, “I’ll go get your wife in the waiting room.  What’s her name?” 

    I was able to say, his name is Earl.  

    With that, I thought she was the one who was having the heart attack! 

    Lucky for me and Earl, she dared to break the rules.

    She went and got the person I needed the most at that scary hour. 
    Today I realize all the more how lucky we were that she dared to be so humane in the face of the rules, laws and prejudice that say “Earl and I are not family.”

    Since that awful hour, by the grace of God who brought us together in 1976, our life together just gets better and better over the decades.

    Yet our 33 years together in love still make us legal strangers in Pennsylvania – where we pay our share of taxes and have been contributing citizens to the Commonwealth.

    Solely because of how we were created, Earl and I are denied nearly 1,400 protections and benefits that state and federal governments automatically bestow as an immediate wedding present to couples who are either created heterosexual or pretend to be.

    We’ve traveled far beyond Pennsylvania’s borders to take whatever steps we can to try to protect our love.

    We entered into Civil Union in Vermont in 2000, the first state to provide that ability.

    We married in 2003 in Canada, the first kind and hospitable country to offer marriage to Americans created like us.

    When we crossed the border back home from Canada on our honeymoon, we became painfully aware that in our own state we remain legal strangers. 

    How sad it was to know that any opposite-sex American couple that also married in Toronto that day returned with automatic and full marriage benefits everywhere in Pennsylvania and across the entire USA.

    Today, by virtue of our Canadian marriage, we are also married in six other states and some municipalities where prejudice against us has begun to diminish.

    In the face of such prejudice and the false witness against us that creates great risk of violence to Earl and I, we have always been rigorously honest about our being a couple in love.

    We knew from day one together that dishonesty would poison and destroy our life together, more so than getting fired, attacked, shunned, disinherited, or much worse.

    Our honesty has helped us survive and thrive amid our many friends, our families of origin, and our enemies who seek to deny and destroy our humanity.

    Earl and I have been waiting for 33 years to be married in Pennsylvania.

    Yes, ‘love is patient,’ but 33 years is a very long engagement for two adult human beings who simply want to marry. 

    I know of no heterosexual in love who would accept that indignity.

    Rev. Earl Ball:

    Hello, as you know, my name is Earl.

    Now that we are in our golden years, Tim and I feel especially vulnerable because we are ‘legal strangers’.

    We need what heterosexual couples have:

    We need the automatic right to make medical decisions for one another.

    We need access to health insurance through our employers.

    We need to be able to bequeath our shared home and assets to the  survivor without the crippling taxes that all heterosexual couples are exempt from.  

    We don’t want the survivor to lose their home.

    We need sick and bereavement leave.

    We need the right to file a wrongful death claim.

    We need the ability to claim the survivor’s Social Security when one of us is gone.

    The list goes on and on and on – it would stretch out this door and down the steps and into the street and how far across Harrisburg!  

    Yes, marriage is a personal commitment but marriage is also a civil bond between a loving couple and their government.

    Civil Marriage is the only guarantee of a vast array of protections and benefits.

    Most of those protections cannot be replicated in any other way regardless of how much money Tim and I have spent on attorney’s fees assembling documents to try to protect us.

    Civil marriage is a civil right, a human right, and our birthright as Americans and Pennsylvanians. 

    Prejudice and discrimination against us are the true enemies to the Commonwealth – not a loving marriage. 

    Outside the bronze doors of this magnificent rotunda, carved boldly into marble walls are the visionary words of Benjamin Franklin,

    “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” 

    Today liberty dwells in this rotunda. 

    We pray that someday soon, liberty for us to marry in Pennsylvania will dwell throughout the Commonwealth – where American liberty began in 1776.

    Thank you again, Senator Leach for your brave and humane leadership.

    This is  a very bright morning indeed for Pennsylvanians who wish to marry the one they love!


    About Timothy George Hare

    Timothy George Hare, R.A., M.A., Architect, was born in Harrisburg, PA, in 1947. 

    Tim and Earl have been together in love for 33 years and have lived in Easton since 1981. 

    Tim has a degree in architecture from Penn State University and studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. 

    After graduating from Penn State,  Tim worked as a Vista volunteer architect for 2 years in Pittsburgh.  In his 40s he earned a Master of Arts Degree in History from East Stroudsburg University.

    Tim has worked in the profession of architecture around the world — including Wales, London, Australia, New York City, New England and Pennsylvania. 

    Three of his books have been published capturing the historic architecture of Australia, Pennsylvania and Easton.

    Recently Tim retired as a state government architect for 12 years in Harrisburg.   Presently he is an architectural historian in Easton.  

    About Earl David Ball

    Rev. Earl David Ball, M.Div., S.T.M, was born in Buffalo, NY in 1947.  

    He had Tim have been together in love for 33 years and have lived in Easton since 1981. 

    Earl received a B.A. degree in anthropology from the State University of Buffalo, and a Master of Divinity Degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, PA. 

    He then received a Master of Sacred Theology degree from New York Theological Seminary and studied at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City.

    In his 40s Earl trained and received Clinical Pastoral Education certification from Abington Hospital, Easton Hospital, and Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.

    Earl has been the pastor of several United Church of Christ congregations in Flicksville, Martin’s Creek and Easton, PA. 

    He worked at the United Church of Christ headquarters in New York City with the Stewardship Council and Office of the President.

    For the past 17 years Earl  created and directed the Pastoral Care/Chaplaincy Department at Grand View Hospital, Sellersville, PA.  

    Earl is a member of St. John’s United Church of Christ,Lansdale and Metropolitan Community Church, New York City.

    Earl was honored to have received a Community Civil Rights Award from the Pennsylvania Diversity Network in 2008 for his leadership in initiating and securing the passage of a non-discrimination ordinance in Easton, PA, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.  

    Earl is a city commissioner with the Easton Human Relations Commission.

  • strumpetwindsock


    Thanks. Well that does sound good then.

    By the way, up here in Canada the whole framework for performing marriages is provincial jurisdiction. The only part of the mix that is under federal law is the definition of marriage.

    The old federal law was struck down province-by-province. It never was heard federally, because the feds realized there was no chance of fighting it. But the Supreme court did affirm that the actual definition is up to the federal government. So they amended the law to change the definition, and that changed it in the provinces where court challenges had not been launched.

    As well, there are differences province to province as to whether commissioners of oaths can refuse to perform same sex marriages because of their faith.

    Anyway, Thanks and best of luck with the fight.

  • Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace

    Cool. Kudos to MA’s AG Coakley.

    And kudos to New England (sans RI) and Iowa for supporting civil marriage.. What’s with Rhode Island?

    Haven’t they heard that we have freedom of and freedom religion in America.

    And kudos to DC for recognizing out-of-state marriages.

    Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
    Washington, Connecticut

    And let’s not forget Obama on DOMA, and DADT…some “change.”

  • Jaroslaw

    Thank you Tim & Earl. Even before I could resolve my religious issues with Gayness, when I was in my late teens I figured God would understand two people in love. I just kept saying in my head – whose business is it anyways? We don’t pass any other laws based on religion, nor do we enforce any already on the books (such as fornication & adultery being illegal just to name two).

    I enjoyed reading your story, hope to find true love as you guys have and thanks again for sharing.

  • Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace

    that should read:

    freedom of and freedom from religion……

    Joe Mustich, JP, CT

  • Nicoleeolee

    I have a problem in that they’re not tackling Article 2 of DOMA, which directly violates teh Full-Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. States SHOULD have to recognize marriages in other states, or why else fight DOMA?


  • Jaroslaw

    #21 Schteve – Question for you and I thought of something else – What is a “federally performed marriage?” I realize you said they wouldn’t be attempted, but not sure what you mean.

    Also, even if DOMA is invalidated, one cannot always “jump the fence” and marry in another state. There are sometimes requirements. Worse yet, with or without DOMA, if one can marry (and/or civil unionize) in a state without actually living there at the time of the ceremony, I think in most states one has to live there for a year to file for divorce/dissolution! Try to figure that out!

  • me

    @Jaroslaw nice to see another gay polak. at times it feels like i’m the only one.

  • Jaroslaw

    #29 thanks! I feel like the only one sometimes too. There was a guy that ran a small Polish paper in our town, he married (a woman) and a while later I noticed his photo on a Gay dating site! And my other friend always claims he’s bi but he’s really not. Catholic upbringing and Polish culture keeps the pressure on to stay in the closet, no?

    I still like to go to Church sometimes, and I would love a Polish boyfriend to speak Polish to but it is almost impossible to find. 🙁

  • me

    yeah it’s tough. currently we’re the only eu country with a same-sex marriage ban as far as i know. there might be one other one, not sure. and yeah it would be great to find a nice polish guy. i don’t like to think of myself as superficial but finding an attractive polish guy (gay or straight; in poland or the states) is quite a task. our girls are gorgeous though. or so i’m told. not sure why that is. having said that if i met the right polish gay guy without any serious hangups engendered by his catholicism i could settle down with him even if he wasn’t spectacularly good looking. right now that doesn’t seem likely.

  • M Shane

    No. 28 · Jaroslaw: Some people understand the issue as being one of the Fed Gov’t giving out S/S marriage licsenses. They don’t give out any marriage lisences. They only recognise marriages performed in states and allow Fed benefits etc to them. DOMA says that they will not recognize, hence other states don’t have to recognise S/S marriage.
    earlier question: Civil Unions as it is written is not what I have in mind; more like something that has the feeling of a secular determination, written however you want . The difference has a lot to do with distancing any arrangement from religious sculdugery, an ugly aspect of this countries laws and spirit.

  • Jaroslaw

    #31 Me – do you live in Poland or US? Where if US?

  • M Shane

    All else being said, the U.S has got to governmentally extricate itself from any association with any religion.
    The Christian religion, however you take it , affects everything that happens with regards to gay people; e.g. look at Mullens rejection of DADT being antagonistic to soldiers “family values’ (christian) foundations.
    I was utterly shocked when I read the last determination of the Southern Baptist Convention where they put in writing that: it is Godly to fire homosexuals from jobs.

    Other developed countries think we are all insane, and often that the “marriage” debate is some kind of religious battle.

  • me

    @Jarek lived in warsaw for first 15 years and in chicago for the last 10. i visit my family in warsaw a lot. and yourself?

  • Jaroslaw

    I live in Detroit – was worth a shot to see if you were close! 🙂

  • me

    lol yeh. i was there passing through just a couple of weeks ago. oh well

  • Jaroslaw

    #37 e-mail me at [email protected] if you want

  • Rob Moore

    I agree that DOMA is a constitutional abomination, but we have to be careful about awakening the dragon of amending the constitution. If DOMA is struck down, we should be considering how we will respond to the certain calls for amending the Constitution. Even though I doubt an amendment would make it through Congress, if two thirds of state legislatures call for a constitutional convention, Congress must allow it.

    There are too few states that recognise marriage equality or civil unions or have strong enough sympathies for marriage equality to prevent ratification. I would bet Iowa is one state whose legislature would jump at a chance to vote for ratification of such an amendment. I don’t want anyone to think Massachusetts should drop the suit, but I think we should all be thinking about how we will resist the worst case consequences if DOMA falls.

  • JozekDC

    co cesz, Jarek?

    (juz mam meza.. but I’ll trade him in if you keep sweet talkin 🙂

  • Jaroslaw

    Jozek – I gave you my home e-mail above – napisac already! Daj mi photo prosze!

Comments are closed.