Judge rules part of Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
July 09, 2010
In a ruling that applies only to Massachusetts but creates a potential precedent for other states, a US district judge has declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the act’s ban on federal pension benefits to homosexual couples violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution and interfered with a state’s right to define marriage. The judge said that individual states have the authority to define marriage, and since Massachusetts has defined marriage to include same-sex couples, any restriction on the benefits these couples receive would violate the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.
The Defense of Marriage Act, which passed the US House and Senate by wide margins in 1996, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The US Justice Department, which Holder heads, has the responsibility for defending federal laws against legal challenges. The Massachusetts law will likely encourage challenges in other states, bringing some urgency to the task of defending the law. But it is not clear how aggressively the Obama administration will defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Attorney General Eric Holder, who heads the Justice Department, has been a critic of the law. Tom McClusky, the vice president of the Family Research Council, charged that the Massachusetts court's decision “results from the deliberately weak legal defense of DOMA that was mounted on behalf of the government by the Obama administration, which has called for repeal of the law.’’
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