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Federal bankruptcy judge upholds Defense of Marriage Act

TACOMA, Wash. (BP)–In the first ruling of its kind, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled Aug. 17 that the Defense of Marriage Act does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Washington state is the first time that a federal court has ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA, the 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage.” The law also gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriage.”

“[T]his Court concludes that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right….” Judge Paul B. Snyder wrote in a 30-page opinion.

The case began when an American lesbian couple received a marriage license in British Columbia, Canada, and subsequently filed jointly for bankruptcy in the United States. One of the women, Ann C. Kandu, died in March. Following her partner’s death and after learning that the two women could not file jointly, Lee Kandu — the debtor — decided to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act.

Kandu’s lawyer argued that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth, Fifth and Tenth Amendments, but Synder disagreed on each count.

Unlike an ongoing federal challenge to DOMA in Florida, the Washington case did not involve the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause.

Pro-family groups praised the ruling.

“This is just more evidence that same-sex ‘marriage’ is not inevitable,” Glen Lavy of the pro-family Alliance Defense Fund told Baptist Press. “This is a battle that we can win.”

It is the third straight court victory for pro-family groups on the issue of same-sex “marriage.” On Aug. 12 California’s high court invalidated San Francisco’s same-sex “marriages,” and one week later a judge in Massachusetts upheld a state law that prevents out-of-state same-sex couples from “marrying.”

Ironically, Snyder’s opinion came after a Washington state judge issued a ruling in early August legalizing same-sex “marriage.” That ruling is being appealed. But Snyder did not fail to criticize the Washington ruling, Andersen v. King County.

“Contrary to the Andersen opinion, there are no grounds to conclude objectively that same-sex marriages are deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” Snyder wrote.

Kandu’s lawyer asserted that DOMA violated the Tenth Amendment by infringing on the states’ right to decide marriage laws. Snyder, though, reached an opposite conclusion.

“DOMA explicitly applies only to federal law,” he wrote. “… The Tenth Amendment is not implicated because the definition of marriage in DOMA is not binding on states and, therefore, there is not federal infringement on state sovereignty. States retain the power to decide for themselves the proper definition of the term marriage.”

Kandu’s lawyer also argued that DOMA is unconstitutional because it conflicts with Kandu’s right to due process and equal protection. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision overturning sodomy bans lays the groundwork for same-sex “marriage,” the lawyer said. Snyder, though, asserted that the Supreme Court explicitly avoided the same-sex “marriage” debate.

“Contrary to the Debtor’s arguments,” he wrote, “… the Supreme Court in Lawrence also explicitly stated that the case did ‘not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.’ … It would appear, then, that the Supreme Court did not intend to extend its holding to include same-sex marriage.”

Lavy said Snyder’s decision is important.

“The greatest significance of this case is that this judge looked at the legal issues,” Lavy said. “This is a well-thought-out legal opinion…. This case is in stark contrast to the other Washington case, where the judge did hardly any legal analysis.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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  • Michael Foust