Gay marriage foes unhappy about
Thursday's ruling calling gay marriage ban DOMA unconstitutional are
suggesting the government threw the case.
US District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro
ruled yesterday in two cases against the federal government's Defense
of Marriage Act (DOMA). The 1996 law signed by President Bill
Clinton defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies
and allows states to ignore the legal marriages of gay couples
performed outside their borders.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha
Coakley argued that the law was forcing her state to discriminate
against couples who were legally married in Massachusetts.
The law “plainly encroaches” on a
state's right to define marriage, Tauro wrote.
Coakley called the ruling “an
important step” to achieving equality.
In the second case, Gill v. Office
of Personnel Management,
being litigated by the Boston-based gay rights group Gay &
Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Tauro said DOMA violates
the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantee.
Representing seven married gay couples
and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied
federal benefits because of DOMA, attorney Mary L. Bonauto argued
that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion on a matter previously
left to the states.
The lawsuits only challenge the portion
of DOMA that denies legally married gay couples access to federal
Gay marriage foes suggested the
government threw the case.
“Under the guidance of Elena Kagan's
brief that she filed when she was Solicitor General, Obama's Justice
Department deliberately sabotaged this case,” Brian Brown,
president of Nation for Marriage (NOM), the country's most vociferous
opponent of gay marriage, charged in a statement.
In asking Tauro to dismiss the cases,
the Justice Department had said the administration disagrees with the
“This presidential administration
disagrees with DOMA as a matter of policy,” W. Scott Simpson, a DOJ
lawyer argued in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. “But
that does not affect its constitutionality.”
Kris Mineau, president of the
Massachusetts Family Institute, a group that opposes gay marriage,
“There's no doubt that the defense
was half-hearted,” Mineau said. “In each case their opening
argument was that they were against the [ban] and called for its
appeal, however, it was constitutional.”
“Only an incompetent defense could
have lost this case,” Maggie Gallagher, chairwoman of NOM, added.
The rulings only affect the state of
Massachusetts, but should the government appeal to a higher court
with a broader jurisdiction their impact could spread.
The Department of Justice has yet to
announce whether it will appeal.
Another federal-level ruling on the
issue is expected shortly in California, where gay
activists are challenging the constitutionality of the state's gay
marriage ban, Proposition 8.