A federal court in Boston has put a
hold on its July ruling that struck down portions of the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro
suspended his ruling Wednesday for 60 days while the U.S. Department
of Justice decides whether it will appeal.
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.
Tauro's decision only considers the
law's definition of marriage, which prohibits married gay and lesbian
couples from accessing federal benefits. He ruled the law violates
the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantee.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates &
Defenders (GLAD), the Boston-based legal group behind the challenge,
said it did not oppose the government's request for a stay.
“We agreed to a stay for two
reasons,” Mary L. Bonauto, director of GLAD's Civil Rights Project,
said. “First and foremost, it is in our clients' best interest.
They want the certainty of knowing that their Social Security
payments, health insurance costs or tax refunds are not potentially
subject to repayment to the government.”
“Second, we think the stay actually
provides clarity for married couples around the country who are
looking at their own situations and wondering whether the Gill
decision allows them to apply for Social Security benefits, for
example, or sponsor their spouse for citizenship. The answer, even
without a stay in Gill, is: not yet.”
marriage foes have previously suggested the government threw the
an incompetent defense could have lost this case,” Maggie
Gallagher, chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the country's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, said.
acknowledging that President Barack Obama's administration disagrees
with DOMA, the Department of Justice has said it is duty-bound to
defend the nation's laws.
ruling only affects the state of Massachusetts, but should the
government appeal to a higher court with a broader jurisdiction its
impact could spread.