Department of Justice Appeals Massachusetts Gay Marriage Ruling

DOJ_logo.jpgThe U.S. Department of Justice has filed appeals on two rulings by a Massachusetts judge who called the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional because it denies federal benefits to gay couples that marry.

In July, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in two separate cases that DOMA is unconstitutional because it restricts a state’s right to define marriage and denies married gays a number of federal benefits given to heterosexual couples, which violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Passed in 1996, DOMA restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman, bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriage and gives states the right to not recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. Currently, five states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire — and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. Three states recognize but do not perform gay marriages: New York, Rhode Island and Maryland.

In his ruling for a suit brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Tauro wrote that, “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,”

The appeals will be heard by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston at a later date.