It soon became obvious that DOMA couldn't be invoked in Bankruptcy Court without risking a sort of selective prosecution, because it's not always obvious when two spouses are the same sex. You may assume George and Thomas are a gay couple, but what about Dana and Chris, or Cameron and Pat? (Bankruptcy lawyers say they're aware of at least one case in which a couple with ambiguous first names are hoping to complete the process before the U.S. Trustee gets wise to them.)
That's only one way DOMA interferes with bankruptcy administration. "Bankruptcy forms don't ask about your gender, because it's not relevant to anything," said Robert J. Pfister, the bankruptcy expert who handled the constitutionality defense for Balas and Morales on a pro bono basis.
Finding a way around DOMA would require a patchwork of arrangements that do no one — not the debtors, not the judge, not the creditors — any good. So it's not surprising that the bankruptcy judges got fed up.
As for the parties most directly affected by the bankruptcy filing, the creditors, "they simply hope to be paid what they are owed," Donovan wrote. From their standpoint, the public purpose of bankruptcy law was advanced, not hindered, by allowing the bankruptcy to go forward. Simply stated, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales stand for the right of same-sex couples to be viewed under the law like everyone else. That makes them pioneers.
Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at email@example.com, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.