BREAKING: Section 3 of DOMA ruled unconstitutional

Federal District Court Judge Joseph Tauro found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional today.

Tauro decided two cases, Gill v. OPM, brought by GLAD, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. HHS, brought by Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley.

We won in both cases.

GLAD tweeted:

Great news! U.S. District Court held that #DOMA “violates … equal protection principles.” Decision will be posted shortly. Please retweet!

Here’s the final paragraph in the Gill decision:

In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled. And this court can conceive of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue. By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction without meaning. And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class is different, in relevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification.149 As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I keep finding nuggets in the ruling. This is one of my favorites in the Gill decision, “DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster even under the highly deferential rational basis test.” The judge didn’t even get to higher scrutiny, because DOMA doesn’t even meet the most basic legal test for legislation.

And, here’s the conclusion of the Mass. case:

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.

This also means the Department of Justice, OPM and HHS lost today. They’ll have to decide if they want to appeal it. That’s going to be an interesting decision on their part — and will have important ramifications.

Here’s the Gill Decision:
Decision in Gill v. OPM http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf
Here’s the decision in the Massachusetts case:
DOMA decision http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf
UPDATE: I have to add this quote from GLAD’s Mary Bonauto:

“Today the Court simply affirmed that our country won’t tolerate second-class marriages,” said Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director, who argued the case. “I’m pleased that Judge Tauro recognized that married same-sex couples and surviving spouses have been seriously harmed by DOMA and that the plaintiffs deserve the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy. This ruling will make a real difference for countless families in Massachusetts.”


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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