Erin Bender


This Note suggests that the Court adopt a new test that would look at a condition attached to federal funding and determine whether it is a classifying condition or a coercive condition. Under this new test, a classifying condition will be deemed constitutional unless it violates equal protection principles; a coercive condition, on the other hand, will usually implicate the unconstitutional conditions doctrine.' On July 8, 2010, in Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Judge Tauro of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted Massachusetts' motion for summary judgment by determining that Section Three of DOMA, as applied to Massachusetts, violates the Tenth Amendment and Congress' power under the Spending Clause. According to Judge Tauro, Section Three violates Congress' power under the Spending Clause by "induc[ing] [Massachusetts] to violate the equal protection rights of its citizens" in order to receive federal funding such as that provided by the VA to maintain state veterans' cemeteries. The Federal Government has appealed Judge Tauro's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and the Supreme Court will most likely grant certiorari to the appellate decision. Therefore, Massachusetts presents an opportunity for the Court to reconsider its Spending Clause jurisprudence and adopt this new test for unconstitutional conditions. Part II of this Note provides a short legislative history of DOMA and an overview of Spending Clause jurisprudence. Part III provides an overview of Judge Tauro's opinion in Massachusetts. Finally, Part IV of this Note analyzes Section Three of DOMA under the proposed classifying/coercive condition approach to the Spending Clause and concludes that Section Three of DOMA would be unconstitutional as either type of condition.