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Same-sex couple challenges DOMA's definition of 'family'

Washington state's recent passage of same-sex marriage puts state law at odds with federal law, particularly the Defense of Marriage Act. Readers of this blog will recall a previous discussion of the tax inequities caused by DOMA, and its impact on child support and spousal support in the event of a same-sex marriage dissolution.

The federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage and this means that every federal agency cannot acknowledge them, despite the fact that many states now do. Federal law of course governs all federal agencies, including the IRS.

Married same-sex couples filed a lawsuit recently against the federal government alleging that DOMA violates their constitutional rights by not allowing them to sponsor their spouse as their spouse applies for a green card. The case, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, focuses on DOMA in the context of immigration, but has implications across family law especially in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

DOMA's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman denies same-sex couples the opportunity to apply for immigration benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.

The result of the DOMA litigation has the potential to affect same-sex married couples in Washington. As state and federal family laws continue to conflict, DOMA could eventually be amended or even repealed. Many gay rights activists are, of course, against DOMA as it limits the rights of same-sex couples; and others also find DOMA unconstitutional on the grounds that it interferes with the rights of the states to define marriage.

Source: The Seattle Times, "Married gay couples sue for immigration rights," Meghan Barr, April 3, 2012

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