Moments ago, a Federal District Court in Boston ruled that Section 3 of Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) — the section of the 1996 law which denies federal benefits to legally married same sex couples — is unconstitutional, saying that it interferes with the traditional state right to define marriage and forces the state to “violate the equal protection rights of its citizens.” [Read the decision HERE.]
The decision is composed of two separate challenges, one brought by the state of Massachusetts and the other by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) “on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts” who have been denied federal benefits available to heterosexual married couples.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro concluded that “there is a historically entrenched tradition of federal reliance on state marital status determination,” and found that DOMA not only violates the tenth amendment but also “induces the Commonwealth to violate the equal protection rights of its citizens” embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“DOMA plainly conditions the receipt of federal funding on the denial of marriage-based benefits to same-sex married couples, though the same benefits are provided to similarly-situated heterosexual couples,” the Court ruled:
As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold Section 3 of DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The decision is a milestone, but is expected to be appealed by the Justice Department. In the case, the federal government maintained that it “has the right to set eligibility requirements for federal benefits — including requiring that those benefits only go to couple sin marriages between a man and a woman.”
“The next step in the case is for the federal government to decide whether it will appeal Judge Tauro’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. That decision should come within the next 60 days,” GLAD said in a press release.
On a conference call with reporters, GLAD explained that the ruling only applies to the state of Massachusetts. Theoretically, same sex couples would be eligible for federal benefits, although GLAD expects the federal government to request a stay and appeal the decision.