The “Defense of Marriage Act” (often referred to as DOMA) was passed in 1996 in advance of some states allowing same-sex marriage, so that other states (and the federal government) could not be forced to recognize a marriage that is not legal in their state.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on two separate issues involving DOMA, in both cases siding against the Defense of Marriage Act.
In the first case, the state of Massachusetts had argued before the court that DOMA denied federal benefits, such as Medicaid, to same-sex couples who have been legally married in the state. The judge concluded that the law is forcing the state to discriminate against portions of its citizenry:
“The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid.”
But wait, there’s more! Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) had also filed suit against DOMA. Judge Tauro has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution as well. GLAD’s legal director, Gary Buseck, had this to say after the ruling:
“We’ve maintained from the very beginning that there was absolutely no basis for this law treating one class of married Massachusetts couples different from everybody else and the court has recognized that.”
Before we go parading through the streets, it’s important to keep two cautions in mind.
First, these two lawsuits — and the resulting decisions against DOMA — only address the aspects of the Act that that address pensions and other federal benefits for same-sex couples. This doesn’t in any way grant rights or benefits to citizens of states that do not currently permit legally-recognized same-sex marriages.
And second, this is almost certainly going to be appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court… Which means we’re still far from victorious.
Still, it’s enough to have a brief celebration, don’t you think?