Court ruling on federal DOMA

Interesting news from Boston.

In an enormous victory for same-sex marriage, a federal judge in Boston today (Thursday, July 8) ruled, in two separate cases, that a critical part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

In one challenge brought by the state of Massachusetts, Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it passed DOMA and took from the states decisions concerning which couples can be considered married. In the other, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, he ruled DOMA violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Tauro considered whether the federal law's definition of marriage — one man and one woman — violates state sovereignty by treating some couples with Massachusetts' marriage licenses differently than others. In Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a gay legal group, asked Tauro to consider whether DOMA violates the right of eight same-sex couples to equal protection of the law. Both cases were argued, separately, in May, and the decision released today is a relatively quick turnaround, given that some judges take almost a year to decide cases.

Fascinating turn of events. First, a victory for State's rights which will please the rightwingers, but the topic isn't very palatable to them.  Second, a victory for LGBT families who will now be able to access federal benefits previously denied to legally wed same sex couples. From the NYT.

“The Constitution isn't about political ideology,” said Michael Boldin, the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, a group based in Los Angeles. “It's about liberty, and limiting the government to certain divisive issues — I applaud what I consider a very rare ruling from the judiciary.”

Others, like Steve V. Moon, a software programmer and founder of States-rights.org, a group founded in Utah in 2008, said the judge's decision was both right and wrong.

“It's unconstitutional for the federal government to pass laws superseding state authority — and the judge did affirm states' rights in this area,” he said. “But I personally believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman and support any state passing laws affirming the sanctity of marriage.”

Mr. Moon said he feared that what might look like a states' rights victory could backfire. If judges in other states, drawing on Judge Tauro's reasoning, start throwing out marriage definition laws that were passed by residents or legislatures, “that could be detrimental to states' rights.”

The Obama Administration is expected to appeal. Of course.

So the state to state battle continues …

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