California Bankruptcy Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act mandates non-recognition of same sex marriage by the federal government. While that raises issues in a variety of contexts, the issue arises again and again in the bankruptcy courts, and bankruptcy attorneys routinely question how to treat married same-sex couples in bankruptcy.  Though they are legally married, DOMA says that the bankruptcy court can’t treat them as such.

Now, a California Bankruptcy Court has declared that law unconstitutional as it applies to a same-sex couple filing for bankruptcy protection in that court.  While the ruling isn’t binding precedent for any other court, the order gives an indication of the overall view of the issue (at least in California):  the order is signed by 20 bankruptcy judges.

The New York Times reports:

One of those who signed Judge Donovan’s opinion, Judge Sheri Bluebond, said that a signing by other judges is “an unusual occurrence, but it is certainly not unprecedented.”

Judge Bluebond said bankruptcy judges signed on to their colleagues’ decisions when “threshold questions” were brought before one judge and the others in that district “so the bar would know where we stand,” and whether they would be able to file in those courts.