The ruling in U.S. District Court in Boston on Thursday, in which Judge Joseph Tauro declared the “Defense of Marriage Act” as “unconstitutional,” has left the Obama administration pondering its next move — under the careful watch of gay rights advocates.
Tauro’s ruling in two separate but similar cases involving DOMA, held that the act violated the Fifth and Tenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and forced the state of Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens.
Officially, the Justice Department is in the process of “reviewing the decision” and had not yet decided whether to further defend DOMA.
However, last year DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler suggested that “until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”
But President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he would like to see DOMA repealed.
“Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does,” said candidate Obama, prior to being elected President.
Regardless, it is widely expected that the Justice Department will appeal Judge Tauro’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
“While we expect the department to continue to defend DOMA on appeal, we urge the Obama administration to push Congress to repeal a law that we know, and Judge Tauro recognized, serves no purpose but to denigrate our families,” the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, said in a statement.
Signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, the federal statute defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In the process, it denies some 1,100 federal benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in the five states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal.