by Ilya Shapiro, CATO Institute
One of the more interesting and potentially influential amicus briefs in United States v. Windsor, the case challenging DOMA Section 3, is one filed by a group of federalism scholars, all of whom have some connection to Cato and/or are generally sympathetic to the positions we take at the Center for Constitutional Studies. As Dale Carpenter puts it on the Volokh Conspiracy blog:
Today I’m proud to join three of my co-Conspirators — Jonathan Adler, Randy Barnett, and Ilya Somin — as well as Ernie Young and Lynn Baker in filing an amicus brief in United States v. Windsor arguing that DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional. While this conclusion is shared by 69% of constitutional law professors around the country, our route to that end is probably not as widely shared.
Our view is that Section 3 fails equal protection review for a reason quite distinct from the standard approaches relying on heightened-scrutiny analysis. Whatever else may be its constitutional defects, Section 3 is not a constitutional exercise of any enumerated federal power. It is also not a “necessary and proper” measure to carry into execution any of Congress’s enumerated powers. Instead, it is an unprecedented expansion of federal authority into a domain traditionally controlled by the states. The federal government claims a hitherto unknown and sweeping power to determine marital and family status. While Congress has not (yet?) claimed a statutory authority to bar states from recognizing specific marriages, it has greatly complicated and burdened their police power to do so through the enforcement of DOMA. It may well be that Congress has authority to limit access to specific federal benefits otherwise available to validly married people. But Section 3, as an across-the-board enactment untethered to any specific power, is not plainly adapted to serve any “legitimate” interest of the federal government.
This may be an appealing argument for those on the Court who take federalism seriouslyDetails