L.A. Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Same-Sex Joint Chapter 13 Case
On June 13, 2011, Hon. Thomas B. Donovan of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles Division denied a motion to dismiss a joint Chapter 13 bankruptcy case filed by a legally married same-sex couple.
The motion was brought by the U.S. Trustee on the grounds that the Bankruptcy Code only allows a debtor to file a joint case with his or her “spouse,” and that under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), only a person of the opposite sex can be a spouse.
Judge Donovan found in favor of the Debtors on every legal issue presented, and concluded: “DOMA violates [the Debtors’] equal protection rights afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, either under heightened scrutiny or under rational basis review. Debtors also have demonstrated that there is no valid governmental basis for DOMA.”
Twenty of the District’s Bankruptcy Judges co-signed the opinion, which appears to be unprecedented. It sends a clear message that same-sex married couples can file jointly in the Central District just like all other married couples without having to litigate DOMA from scratch each time. Hopefully it will be adopted by other judicial districts in states where there are validly married same-sex couples.