How is this for a pleasant shocker:
In an enormous victory for same-sex marriage, a federal judge in Boston today (Thursday, July 8) ruled, in two separate cases, that a critical part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
In one challenge brought by the state of Massachusetts, Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it passed DOMA and took from the states decisions concerning which couples can be considered married. In the other, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, he ruled DOMA violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Tauro considered whether the federal law’s definition of marriage -- one man and one woman -- violates state sovereignty by treating some couples with Massachusetts’ marriage licenses differently than others. In Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a gay legal group, asked Tauro to consider whether DOMA violates the right of eight same-sex couples to equal protection of the law. Both cases were argued, separately, in May, and the decision released today is a relatively quick turnaround, given that some judges take almost a year to decide cases.
GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto told Tauro that DOMA constitutes a "classic equal protection" violation, by taking one class of married people in Massachusetts and dividing it into two. One class, she noted, gets federal benefits, the other does not. Just as the federal government cannot take the word "person" and say it means only Caucasians or only women, said Bonauto, it should not be able to take the word "marriage" and say it means only heterosexual couples. Bonauto said the government has no reason to withhold the more than 1,000 federal benefits of marriage from same-sex couples, and noted that a House Judiciary Committee report "explicitly stated the purpose of DOMA was to express moral disapproval of homosexuality."
Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, told Judge Tauro that Section 3 of DOMA -- the section that limits the definition of marriage for federal benefits to straight couples -- violates the state’s right under the federal constitution to sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. Healey called DOMA an "animus-based national marriage law" that intrudes on core state authority and "forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens."
And we know what is going to happen next. Various religious right groups will be throwing out terms like "activist judges" and the "sanctity of marriage." I'm already expecting to be hit by a barrage of press releases and requests for money from the Family Research Council.
Then again, the way they have been going, I'm expecting a seriously hysterical screed about how this decision will lead to abortions, pedophilia, and wanton chaos.
You know - the usual things they accuse us of.
But it's a different ball field than it was when DOMA was first passed and it's definitely a different ball field than it was in 2004 when these groups were able to exploit marriage equality to get George Bush re-elected.
It's about time, too.