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U.S. Defense of Marriage Law Unconstitutional, Judges Rule

Tuesday, 14 Jun 2011 04:46 PM

 

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The ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriage can’t prevent a gay couple from filing a joint bankruptcy, a panel of judges ruled, declaring the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Gene Douglas Balas and Carlos A. Morales were married legally in California before voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages. That makes them, and about 18,000 other gay couples who wed in the state before the ban, eligible to file bankruptcy together, according to yesterday’s ruling in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles.

“This case is about equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” according to the decision signed by 20 bankruptcy judges. “In this court’s judgment, no legally married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any other legally married couple.”

The U.S. Defense of Marriage Act bans federal agencies from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. The judges, in their decision yesterday, ruled that law violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution by treating married gay couples differently from married opposite-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ruled in August that there was “overwhelming” evidence that Proposition 8, the 2008 amendment to California’s constitution that states marriage is only between a man and a woman, violates equal protection rights.

The bankruptcy case is is In re Gene Douglas Balas, 11- 17831, U.S Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The Proposition 8 case is Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 3:09-cv-02292, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).


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