A federal appeals court panel heard arguments Wednesday on whether to uphold a lower court’s finding that a section of the 1996 law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The case is the first challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, to reach a federal appeals court. In July 2010, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the United States District Court in Boston sided with the plaintiffs in two separate cases brought by the state attorney general and a gay rights group.
... Mr. Clement — who last week argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of states challenging President Obama’s health care law — told the appeals panel that Congress had a rational basis for defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He said that in 1996, as Hawaii appeared to be the first state moving toward recognizing same-sex marriage, Congress passed the law out of concern that it should have its own definition of marriage.
“Congress could rationally choose to have a uniform definition rather than have it rely upon state law,” Mr. Clement said.
... The three judges on the panel directed most of their questions at Mr. Clement and Mr. Delery. But the questions were measured and did not shed much light on how the court might rule. The judges — Juan Torruella, Michael Boudin and Sandra Lynch, the First Circuit’s chief judge — were appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, respectively.