20 Judges Say DOMA Unconstitutional

President Clinton signs DOMA

Twenty federal bankruptcy judges in Los Angeles are a pretty unusual group to declare the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, but here you have it.

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in Sept. 1996, declared marriage to be a legal union between “one man and one woman.”  It passed both houses of Congress by large majorities.

The judges jointly signed an opinion June 13 that two men who legally married in California prior to voter passage of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, should be entitled to the same federal bankruptcy rights as any other legally married couple.  The men remain legally married today.

Gene D. Balas and Carlos A. Morales filed a joint chapter 13 bankruptcy petition Feb. 24, 2011 in an effort to repay bills from numerous episodes of illness, hospitalization and unemployment, according to the opinion.  But the federal bankruptcy trustee asserted the pair were ineligible to file jointly because they were two men.

The question for the judges was whether two men, legally married in California, have the right to have their joint bankruptcy petition recognized.

The men have demonstrated “DOMA violates their equal protection rights afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to the decision signed by all 20 judges.

The judges even allowed the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group the time it requested to consider intervening in the case.  But no court filings ever came from the House group so the judges acted.

 Case:  In re Balas and Morales, No. 11-bk-17831TD

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