In two separate cases, Federal Judge Joseph Tauro in Massachusetts ruled on July 8 that part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
DOMA was signed into law in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton while Republicans held majorities in both bodies of Congress. The two major parts of DOMA are Section 2 and Section 3. Section 2 gives states the right to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states where they are valid; this part of DOMA was not considered in either of the two cases. Section 3 bars married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits which in this ruling was found to be in violation of three parts of the U.S. Constitution.
In Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Judge Tauro rules that Section 3 violates the Fifth Amendment because of the unequal treatment given to same-sex couples. Judge Tauro also found in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that Section 3 violates the Spending Clause of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment because it “plainly intrudes on a core area of state sovereignty ‚ÄĒ the ability to define the marital status of its citizens.”
It is expected that both cases will be appealed by the Justice Department and will eventually go to the Supreme Court.