Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Part of Suit Challenging DOMA Survives Motion to Dismiss

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma has held that at least some of the challenges brought by same-sex couples to the Defense of Marriage Act will survive a motion to dismiss.

The court that none of the couples had standing to challenge Section 2 of the act, which provides that no state be required to give effect to a public act or judicial proceeding of another State "that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State" that a lesbian couple who had a civil union in Vermont and also had been married in Canada.   Even the couple who had established a civil union in Vermont and were legally married in Canada lacked standing.  The court relied heavily on the reasoning of  Smelt v. County of Orange, 447 F.3d 673, 683 (9th Cir. 2006) and concluded that they did not have standing to challenge Section 2 of DOMA because a civil union is not a marriage.  Their Canadian marriage did not give standing because "the word "State" in Section 2 of DOMA (like use of the word "State" in the Full Faith and Credit Clause) was not intended to include foreign countries but instead was intended only to include states within the United States."

The court did find sufficient evidence of standing for this couple to survive a motion to dismiss in regards to the challenge the definitional section of DOMA.  The court rejected the argument that same-sex couples were no more harmed in that their civil union could not be recognized as marriage than would any other legal relationship, such as a business partnership.  The court commented: "It seems to ignore common sense and to elevate form over substance to equate these two types of legal relationships for purposes of analyzing the injury suffered as a result of the federal definition of marriage."

The court granted dismissals on the Full Faith and Credit Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause challenges but found that the challenges to Section 3 based on the Equal Protection Clause and Substantive Due Process Clause are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. "The Court concludes that such challenges are more appropriately decided at the summary judgment stage, because they may involve specific factual findings related to the purpose and justifications for the law."

Baldwin v. Oklahoma ex rel. Edmondson, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49829  (July 20, 2006) bgf

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