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While the legal challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage — Proposition 8 — plays out on the West Coast, a direct constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act moves forward on the East Coast. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley last week moved for summary judgment in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which was filed in July. “Throughout our history, marital status has been determined solely and exclusively by State law — not simply for purposes of State legislation, but also wherever Congress has chosen to make federal law turn on marital status,” Coakley told the federal district court in Boston. The state argues that DOMA’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman violates the allocation of powers between the federal and state governments in two ways: it violates the 10th Amendment, which prohibits Congress from intruding on areas of exclusive state authority, “of which the definition and regulation of marriage is perhaps the clearest example.” And, DOMA — which the government has admitted is “discriminatory” — violates the Spending Clause by forcing “the Commonwealth 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.” Although the Obama Administration has conceded the law is discriminatory, it still defends the law as constitutional. The administration in November filed a motion to dismiss the case. It must respond to Coakley’s motion for summary judgment by April 30. In the same federal court, an earlier and parallel challenge to DOMA was filed last March by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders on behalf of a group of married gay and lesbian residents who contend they have been denied federal protections and benefits available to spouses because of the federal law. Gill v. Office of Personnel Management argues that the law violates their Fifth Amendment right to equal protection. GLAD filed its motion for summary judgment in November and the Obama Administration responded on Jan. 29. Last week, GLAD filed its reply in support of its motion for summary judgment. The National Law Journal reported on the GLAD challenge in its Aug. 31 issue.

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