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Massachusetts Challenges Defense of Marriage Act
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Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in July of 2009 challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.  The state argues that the law forces Massachusetts, the first in the country to legalize gay marriage, to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Coakley filed papers in US District Court on Thursday asking a judge to deem the law unconstitutional without holding a trial on the lawsuit.

Coakley argues that the regulation of marriage has traditionally been left to the states and that a conflict exists between federal laws treating heterosexual and homosexual couples differently and Massachusetts law. For example differences exist when determining Medicaid benefits and when determining whether a spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veteran’s cemetery.

Coakley said the law forces her state, “to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs…Massachusetts cannot receive or retain federal funds if it gives same-sex and different-sex spouses equal treatment, namely by authorizing the burial of a same-sex spouse in a federally funded veterans’ cemetery and by recognizing the marriages of same-sex spouses in assessing eligibility for Medicaid health benefits.”

  
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Coakley made the filing in response to a U.S. Justice Department motion to dismiss the lawsuit and to support Coakley’s request to declare the law unconstitutional without holding a trial. The Obama Administration had acknowledged the discriminatory nature of the law and wants Congress to repeal it but the Justice Department says it has an obligation to defend laws enacted by Congress. The Department argues that there is no fundamental right to marriage-based federal benefits in asking for a dismissal of the Massachusetts lawsuit.



 

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