Federal District Judge Joseph L. Tauro (left), in answer to two legal challenges in Massachusetts, ruled that the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, based on its upending of the federal government's precedent of allowing state control over marriage laws (read the judge's decision here). DOMA defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. The judge spoke in behalf of the rulings of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
"This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status," Tauro wrote. "The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state."
Judge Tauro also ruled that DOMA violates the Constitution's equal protection clause:
"Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification the Constitution clearly will not permit," Tauro wrote.
Supporters and opponents of gay marriage issued statements:
“Today the court simply affirmed that our country won’t tolerate second-class marriages,” said Mary Bonauto, a lawyer from the [Boston-based group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders] who argued successfully in the 2003 Supreme Judicial Court case that first legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. “This ruling will make a real difference for countless families in Massachusetts.”
...Opponents of same-sex marriage condemned the ruling. Kris Mineau, president of Massachusetts Family Institute called it “another blatant example of a judge playing legislator.”
“Same-sex marriage activists have tried time and time again to win public approval of their agenda, and they have failed each time,” Mineau said in a statement. “This is why their strategy is to force same-sex ‘marriage’ through judicial fiat, as they did here in Massachusetts and other states.”
Mineau refers to the referendums, such as California's Proposition 8, that rescinded gay marriage rights. Such referendums should not be held, as they unjustifiably allow the majority to decide whether to grant civil rights and equal protection to the minority. The courts have an obligation to uphold such protections.