Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley easily wins the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death Senator Edward Kennedy, who died in August of brain cancer. Coakley became a national figure when she filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and potentially brings the fight to repeal DOMA to the Senate.
The victory came at a critical time for President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, which is counting on maintaining its 60-seat majority in the 100-member Senate as the body wrestles with legislation for a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. Coakley, 56, will face Republican state legislator Scott Brown in the January 19 election for the legendary Senate seat, which Edward Kennedy took over from his older brother, President John F. Kennedy. Coakley is heavily favored to win and to serve the rest of Kennedy's term in the Senate, which will run through 2012.
The winner of the January election will replace Paul Kirk, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Kennedy friend whom Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed in September.
In July 2009, Coakley filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. Massachusetts v. United States claims that Congress, in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, "overstepped its authority ... and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people." The suit is one of three at the federal level, including Ted Olson and David Boies' Perry v. Schwarzenegger and GLAD's Gill v OPM, that are challenging DOMA and considered to have very good chances of success.