At the Federalist Society’s Supreme Court blog, I offer some thoughts on the Second Circuit’s decision in Windsor v. United States, which held the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The post concludes with a thought on what direction the Supreme Court might take when it confronts the constitutionality of DOMA:
Even if the Court is inclined to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, it’s more likely the Court would do so in the more limited and incremental way suggested by the First Circuit than in the more ambitious way advanced by the Second Circuit. The federal-only rationale of the First Circuit focuses on what possible interest the federal government could have in denying equal treatment to a subset of married couples. It does not necessitate a ruling that state governments must equally recognize same- and opposite-sex couples as married. For a Court that wants to leave the marriage debate open in the states, but at the same time wants to ensure that the federal government does not inject itself into that debate with unusual discrimination, that may be a tempting option.
UPDATE: Ed Whelan argues that the analysis of the First Circuit in Massachusetts v. Dep’t of HHS would also result in the invalidation of state laws confining marriage to opposite=sex couples.