The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s (“DOMA’s”) definition of marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriages in 2004, claims that the federal definition violates its authority under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution to define marriage as it sees fit.
ClickÂ here for the full complaint.
Attorney General Martha Coakleyâ€™s suit argues that DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reserves all powers to the states except those expressly given to the federal government, and it points out that until DOMAâ€™s passage in 1996 states had unchallenged authority to regulate marriage.
It claims DOMA violates the Constitutionâ€™s principles of federalism, and it also violates constitutional provisions that prevent the federal government from withholding money to states as a means of forcing them to violate the constitutional rights of their citizens.
The suit asks the court to find DOMA unconstitutional as applied to Massachusetts and to grant an injunction preventing the enforcement of DOMA against Massachusetts.
The suit alleges that not only does the law violate the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves to the states all powers except those granted to the federal government. It also alleges that the law violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which limits the power of Congress to attach conditions to the receipt of federal funds.
The suit states that DOMA, termed “overreaching and discriminatory,” interferes with the state’s “sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage.”
“We view all married persons equally,” Coakley said at a press conference today.
The judicial branch sees Congress’ ability to attach strings to funds as quite broad, and if the definition of marriage is linked to that enumerated power and is not seen as commandeering the state legislative or executive branches, it would likely not be seen by them as a violation Tenth Amendment.