Judge Dismisses DOMA Lawsuit on Technicality

A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit filed against the Defense of Marriage Act, saying that the suit had been improperly filed in state court before it was transferred to his jurisdiction.

Because of the technicality, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter refused to entertain arguments on the suit's merits and said the case must be refilled in federal court to be considered.

"There is no point for us to go down the line of decision-making and waste time," he said during the hearing in Santa Ana, Calif., according to The Associated Press.

Though the gay Southern California couple that filed the lawsuit last December will likely refile, Brian Raum, senior counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, hailed Monday's ruling.

"[W]e are pleased that this challenge to the federal law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been dismissed," said Raum, whose legal group is representing ProtectMarriage.com, which was allowed to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit in May.

In December 2008, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer had filed the lawsuit claiming that the California marriage amendment, which voters decisively passed as Proposition 8 in last November's election, violates the U.S. Constitution. They also challenged the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The two men, who live in Orange County, were among the 18,000 same-sex couples who had obtained a "marriage" license in California during the short window of time in which such licenses were allowed to be issued to members of the same sex.

The couple has been battling against marriage laws for the past five years and have been on a losing streak since they first went to federal court to challenge both the federal law and California's refusal to grant them a marriage license in 2004.

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, threw out the portion of their lawsuit filed against the California marriage amendment.

In his ruling on July 16, Carter said California is no longer an appropriate target in the DOMA case because Smelt and Hammer got "married" in California before voters approved Prop. 8 in the last election.

Also, because the California State Supreme Court recently held that such marriages would remain intact, they had no "injury" or standing to challenge the measure, the judge ruled.

After the latest blow, Raum said Smelt and Hammer's lawsuit could be back in a federal court in a matter of months.

The gay couple's case, "Smelt v. United States of America," was the first of several pending challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.