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Fed. Judge in Boston Rules DOMA Unconstitutional

By Jason Beahm on July 09, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal judge has ruled that the federal ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on Thursday in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevented states from being able to define marriage. As defining marriage has been a state right, a federal law to ban gay marriage cannot stand, Tauro ruled. Tauro found that the law forced the state of Massachusetts to discriminate against it's own citizens. 

The lawsuit was brought by seven married gay couples and surviving spouses from Massachusetts who said they were wrongfully denied federal benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The state of Massachusetts argued that under the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples were denied benefits such as Medicaid. 

The justice department unsuccessfully argued that for a federal program, like Medicaid, the government has the legal right to set eligibility requirements restricting benefits to only couples in a marriage between a man and a woman.

Court battles over same sex marriage and civil unions have been frequent on a state and federal level throughout the past two decades. California had an opportunity to vote to allow same sex marriage in 2008 but it was narrowly defeated. Court battles are already underway challenging the validity of the law, which was passed as part of California's voter proposition system. 

Tauro's ruling has three major points. First, the federal government does not have the legal right to create a definition of marriage, making the 1996 law invalid. Second, the law is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Third, the ruling does not legalize gay marriage, it only prevents the federal government from defining marriage. 

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