Judge Backs DOMA in WA Bankruptcy Case

August 23, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A state of Washington federal judge has upheld a 1996 law defining marriage as taking place between a man and a woman.

US Bankruptcy Judge Paul Snyder ruled in a case involving two women who had been legally married in British Columbia that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is constitutional – the first such federal court ruling since the measure was enacted, Knight Ridder reported.

In a 30-page opinion, Snyder argued that Congress was within its power in approving DOMA. “This court’s personal view that children raised by same-sex couples enjoy benefits possibly different, but equal, to those raised by opposite-sex couples, is not relevant to the court’s ultimate decision,” Snyder wrote. “It is within the province of Congress, not the courts, to weigh the evidence and legislate on such issues.”

DOMA’s constitutionality has become an issue in the continuing hot-button debate over same-sex marriages across the country.

The widely watched Washington state case involves Lee and Ann Kandu, who applied for bankruptcy protection because of thousands of dollars of debt from their medical problems; both were diagnosed with cancer and Ann Kandu died in March.

The effect of Snyder’s ruling is that creditors can go after the two women’s Castle Rock, Washington home to help satisfy the mountain of medical debt. The decision also means that the pair cannot discharge their debts jointly through bankruptcy the way other married couples do and can’t refile individually since one party is dead.