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June 14, 2011 Print

Government Agencies Double Down on DOMA

by Catherine Snow

A pattern is emerging that troubles marriage advocates. 

During a four-and-a-half-month window in 2008, nearly 18,000 same-sex couples were legally married in California, just before voters passed a marriage-protection amendment. Now, years later, a few of these same couples are reappearing to challenge statutes that undergird marriage. And they’re getting help from the Obama administration.

Time and time again, federal officials have taken steps to undermine the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, which passed in 1996, was designed to protect the more than 1,100 rights, benefits and privileges written into federal code pertaining to marriage.

Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, same-sex partners who were married in California in 2008, had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection as a married couple. The U.S. Trustee’s Office  asked the court to dismiss the case in light of DOMA. The court denied the request.

In a 24-page decision, 20 judges from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California — in addition to scolding the U.S. Congress — found that the joint filing had “no effect on procreation” and would not “in any way harm any marriage of heterosexual persons”; therefore, “there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA.”

Last month, the IRS unilaterally skirted DOMA by qualifying California’s registered domestic partnership (RDP) law, passed in 1999 and amended over time, as the equivalent of marriage when assessing income taxes.  

RDP was intended to cater not only to same-sex couples, but also cohabitating couples, including seniors, to protect property rights, Social Security benefits and the like. 

The irony of the IRS decision is that some same-sex partners likely wouldn’t benefit on their federal taxes, due to the “marriage penalty.” 

Obama recently issued a directive through HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that states are now authorized to cover same-sex couples under Medicaid.  

The directive says, in part: 

“Under the new guidance, dated June 10, states have the option to allow healthy partners in a same-sex relationship to keep their homes while their partners are receiving support for long-term care under Medicaid, such as care in a nursing home,

“The new guidance, signed by Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Cindy Mann, clarifies that states can offer this protection to the healthy partner of a Medicaid recipient in a same-sex relationship.”

Ashley Horne, federal analyst for CitizenLink, said now is no time for concerned citizens to grow weary.

“These moves by the Obama administration and like-minded supporters are a key reminder why the 2012 election will be so important,” Horne said, “and for Christians to make their voices heard.”

Read the Bankruptcy Court opinion.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article, “Same-Sex Couples and The Marriage Penalty.”

Read the three IRS memos concerning DOMA: here, here and here.