When Gene Balas and Carlos Morales got legally married in California in 2008, they didn’t premeditate the illness, hospitalization, and extended periods of unemployment that would eventually drive them to declare bankruptcy. They filed a joint petition for Chapter 13 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court—something DOMA doesn’t usually allow same-sex couples to do—and in a stunning ruling, the Central District of California found the burden imposed by DOMA on the gay couple unconstitutional.
In their opinion, the court added that, “[No] valid governmental interest is advanced by DOMA as applied to the Debtors,” and that “the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land.” Then 20 of the district’s 24 bankruptcy judges signed the ruling to express their agreement.
Why is this a good thing?
For one, “the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is defending the Defense of Marriage Act in several other cases” ultimately didn’t bother to challenge Balas and Morales’ filing, signifying a possible reluctance to do in future cases and the likelihood that other courts may soon rule in favor of other legally married gay couples seeking bankruptcy.
Secondly, the Bankruptcy Court basically put the rights of legally married Americans to settle their financial debt over the arbitrary aims of DOMA. Uniformity in financial law helps the government and its citizens manage their finances in a dependable and predictable process. In this way, DOMA is bad for businesses, courts, and gay couples all around.
It’s interesting that the latest push against DOMA is thus not just a plea for civil rights, but a move towards uniform financial law.