Two huge wins for equality. In two separate cases, a federal judge in Boston ruled a significant part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled Section 3, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and denies all federal rights and protections to same-sex couples, violated the 10th and 5th Amendments.
The first case was brought by the state of Massachusetts. In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Judge Tauro ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment when it passed DOMA in 1996 because it interferes with a state's right to define marriage. The second case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, was brought by Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Tauro ruled that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's Equal protection clause.
Massachusetts was brought by attorney general and one-time senate candidate Martha Coakley. The final paragraph in Tauro's decision is worth noting:
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. The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid.
The federal government—the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Personnel Management—lost these cases. It will be very interesting to watch their response—especially that of OPM, which is headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking openly gay manin the Obama Administration. Will they drop the cases and say a federal judge forced their hand? Or will the Administration appeal to "uphold the law" because "it's their job"?