The First Circuit Court of Appeals held that section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of federal laws and regulations, violates the Equal Protection Clause.
The court held that the rational basis test requires an intensified scrutiny of purported justifications for legislations such as section 3, which discriminates against minorities and intrudes on matters customarily under the control of the individual states. The court concluded that none of the purported justifications for section 3 provide an adequate basis for upholding the statute.
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act [1 U.S.C. § 7] provides that ''[i]n determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'' (Section 2 of DOMA, which preserves a state's power not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, was not at issue in this case.)
The First Circuit noted that any arguments that either presume or rest on a constitutional right to same-sex marriage are foreclosed by Baker v. Nelson [409 U.S. 810, 93 S. Ct. 37, 34 L. Ed. 2d 65 (1972)] . Baker involved an equal protection challenge to a Minnesota statute defining marriage as a union of persons of the opposite sex. The United States Supreme Court summarily dismissed, for want of a substantial federal question, an appeal of a Minnesota Supreme Court decision upholding the statute. According to the First Circuit, a Supreme Court summary dismissal ''prevent[s] lower courts from coming to opposite conclusions on the precise issues presented and necessarily decided by those actions''