Massachusetts sues U.S. over gay marriage rights
By Jason Szep
BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts sued the U.S. government on Wednesday to seek federal marriage benefits for about 16,000 gay and lesbian couples who have wed since the state became the nation's first to legalize same-sex marriage.
The state is challenging the constitutionality of the federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, saying it denies "essential rights and protections" to married gay couples.
The federal government is interfering with the state's "sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage," said the lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston. It calls the law "overreaching and discriminatory."
Others have challenged the law in the past but Massachusetts is the first state to do so. "We view all married persons equally and identically," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told a news conference.
The lawsuit is the latest skirmish over gay marriage in the U.S. federal court system after a handful of political filmmakers led by a Democratic consultant crafted a gay rights challenge in May that they hope will reach the Supreme Court.
It also follows a separate lawsuit filed by a group of married gay couples in Massachusetts in March that also challenged the same portion of the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
'FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY'
This year has seen a sharp expansion of laws legalizing gay marriage. In a single week in April, Iowa and Vermont joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing gay couples to wed legally. Maine followed suit in May. New Hampshire did so a month later. And New York is considering a similar law. Continued...