The U.S. District Court in Boston ruled today that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, since it violates the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments.Â The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is the federal statute passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996 as a preemptive strike against any states who might get uppity and legalize same-sex marriage.Â Essentially, the law created a federal definition of "marriage" as pertaining only to opposite-sex couples.Â Additionally, it makes clear that no state needs to recognize a same-sex union as a "marriage," even if they were married in a different state that recognizes same-sex marriages.
Today's ruling, authored by Judge Joseph Tauro, is in response to two separate filings.Â One was brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, with regards to federal benefits that are being denied to same-sex couples legally married by the state.Â On this, Tauro ruled DOMA unconstitutional on Tenth Amendment grounds because the law allows the federal government to "plainly encroach upon the firmly entrenched province of the state."Â (You may remember Martha Coakley losing the special Senate Election in Mass to Scott Brown)
The other petition was filed by the Gays & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, and also stemmed from the denial of federal benefits to be conferred upon same-sex couples or surviving spouses in Massachusetts.Â Tauro agreed again, this time based on the Fourteenth Amendment's prescription that all citizens receive equal protection under the law.
I wholeheartedly agree with the result of this ruling, as I believe gays and lesbians in this country are being denied equal rights when we have laws specifically benefiting heterosexuals.Â It's a weird feeling knowing that I could get married if I wanted to, which would provide me with hundreds of specific financial and other benefits under federal law, but that all of that would be denied to me if I had a different predisposition.
In challenging these petitions, the Obama administration is turning its backs not just on gay Americans, but all Americans who expect equality for all citizens under the law.Â Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to try and repeal DOMA, even though it's no secret that he and Vice President Biden do not support same-sex marriage.
Mr. President, if you're too busy to actively push for equal rights for all Americans, then at least keep your Justice Department on a leash and don't hold back progress on this front.