U.S. Supreme Court

Judge's Ruling on Gay Marriage Law Gains Credence After Decision on Medicaid Expansion


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A federal judge’s reasoning in striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act is getting more attention because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision curbing federal coercion in Medicaid provisions of the health care law.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro of Boston had ruled that DOMA, which bars federal benefits to gay married couples, exceeded Congress’ power to attach conditions to federal grants to states, the New York Times reports. As an example, he cited a threat by the Department of Veterans Affairs to reclaim around $19 million if Massachusetts allowed the burial of a veteran’s same-sex spouse in a cemetery funded with federal money.

“Most people did not take that part of Judge Tauro’s opinion very seriously,” the Times says. But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the health care law’s insurance mandate and Medicaid expansion. A controlling opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. upheld the expansion, but said the federal government could not withdraw existing Medicaid funds from states that refuse to go along with the expansion requirements.

Joining Roberts on that issue were Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. A Politico column reported on surprise surrounding Kagan’s stance and speculation that it may have been part of a compromise to save “Obamacare.” Four conservative justices also endorsed Roberts’ position, though they did so in a dissent rather than a concurrence.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Tauro’s position on federal grants when it struck down the law on other grounds. Now the “blockbuster” case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in a cert petition (PDF), the Times says.

The DOMA case is Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group v. Gill.

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