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U.S. District Court Judge Rules Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Massachusetts ruled today that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the law, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, violated the Constitution because it interfered with a state’s right to define what constitutes a legal marriage. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in the midst of the 1996 presidential campaign season.

The ruling covered two separate cases in which gay couples had challenged the law in a Massachusetts court because while the state has recognized same-sex marriages since 2004, they were still denied federal benefits like Medicaid.

Evan Wolfson, executive director of the pro-gay marriage group Freedom to Marry, said he believed Tauro’s ruling was a historic blow to discrimination.

“Today’s ruling affirms what we have long known: federal discrimination enacted under DOMA is unconstitutional,” he said in a statement. “The decision will be appealed and litigation will continue. But what we witnessed in the courtroom cannot be erased: federal marriage discrimination harms committed same-sex couples and their families for no good reason.”

Brian Brown, president of the anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage, dragged Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan into the fray in his response to the ruling.

“Under the guidance of Elena Kagan’s brief that she filed when she was Solicitor General, Obama’s justice department deliberately sabotaged this case,” he said in a statement.

NOM Chair Maggie Gallagher suggested in the same statement that Tauro wanted to start another culture war.

“Does he really want another Roe. v. Wade?” she said. “The simple fact is that the right of the federal government to define marriage for the purposes of its federal law and federal territories has been clear since the late 19th century, when Congress banned polygamy. Only an incompetent defense could have lost this case. We expect to win in a higher court.”

Updated at 11:46 p.m.

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