The 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.