DOJ Moves To Dismiss DOMA Challenge
The Department of Justice has filed a motion requesting the dismissal of a DOMA-related federal marriage equality case which calls for states to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages from other states. (Important: this is unrelated to the coming federal case from Ted Olson and David Boies.)
The motion, filed late Thursday, argued the case of Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer does not address the right of gay couples to marry but rather questions whether their marriage must be recognized nationwide by states that have not approved gay marriage. "This case does not call upon the Court to pass judgment ... on the legal or moral right of same-sex couples, such as plaintiffs here, to be married," the motion states. "Plaintiffs are married, and their challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") poses a different set of questions." It's a different case from a recent federal lawsuit by two unmarried gay couples in California who claim a civil right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. The government said Smelt and Hammer seek a ruling on "whether by virtue of their marital status they are constitutionally entitled to acknowledgment of their union by states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, and whether they are similarly entitled to certain federal benefits. "Under the law binding on this Court, the answer to these questions must be no," the motion states.In a separate action, California Attorney General Jerry Brown moved to dismiss the state version of the lawsuit by the same couple, saying that they have no standing to file since their marriage was unaffected by recent ruling on Prop 8.
UPDATE: JMG reader Lavi dug into the brief and found that it invokes incest and adult-child marriage. UNfuckingbelievable.
The courts have followed this principle, moreover, in relation to the validity of marriages performed in other States. Both the First and Second Restatements of Conflict of Laws recognize that State courts may refuse to give effect to a marriage, or to certain incidents of a marriage, that contravene the forum State's policy. See Restatement (First) of Conflict of Laws § 134; Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 284.5 And the courts have widely held that certain marriages performed elsewhere need not be given effect, because they conflicted with the public policy of the forum. See, e.g., Catalano v. Catalano, 170 A.2d 726, 728-29 (Conn. 1961) (marriage of uncle to niece, "though valid in Italy under its laws, was not valid in Connecticut because it contravened the public policy of th[at] state"); Wilkins v. Zelichowski, 140 A.2d 65, 67-68 (N.J. 1958) (marriage of 16-year-old female held invalid in New Jersey, regardless of validity in Indiana where performed, in light of N.J. policy reflected in statute permitting adult female to secure annulment of her underage marriage); In re Mortenson's Estate, 316 P.2d 1106 (Ariz. 1957) (marriage of first cousins held invalid in Arizona, though lawfully performed in New Mexico, given Arizona policy reflected in statute declaring such marriages "prohibited and void").
The fact that States have long had the authority to decline to give effect to marriages performed in other States based on the forum State's public policy strongly supports the constitutionality of Congress's exercise of its authority in DOMA.