On July 8th, 2010 the District Court of Massachusetts held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It defines marriage, federally, as the union between one man and one woman, and blocks the possibility of gay marriages being recognized on the federal level. It was created because of fears that Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Five states now have gay marriage, the first being Massachusetts. Hawaii (after a recent veto by it’s governor) is still not one of them.
Judge Tauro found that the case did not even survive rational basis review (the lowest level of scrutiny which is used to determine constitutionality of laws and cases). The Judge made his decision based on the 10th Amendment, stating that DOMA infringes upon states rights by not allowing them to provide same sex marriage benefits when they do apply. The benefits which Massachusetts wishes to give their same sex married couples includes the federal health plan (for government employees) and social security.
Tauro also cites the Equal Protection clauses which are clearly stated in the Constitution. Without question, the creation of unequal classes within the United States legal system is unacceptable within the constraints of the Constitution. DOMA creates an unequal class in that the federal government (and thus the states it financially supports) would not maintain a fully equal financial relationship for both gay and straight couples.
If interested in reading the full text of the court opinion, it can be found here.
— Elsa Sjunneson