The Obama administration will appeal
two cases that found portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled
in July against the 1996 law that 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.
“As a policy matter, the president
has made it clear that he believes DOMA is discriminatory and should
be repealed,” DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said, Reuters
reported. “The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it
traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged. The
Department of Justice has a long-standing practice of defending
federal statutes when they are challenged in court, including by
appealing adverse decisions of lower courts.”
Both challenges were filed in
Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage. One
was filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the
other by several gay couples being represented by the Boston-based
gay rights group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“DOMA is an unjust and
unconstitutional law that discriminates against Massachusetts married
couples and their families,” Coakley said in a statement.
GLAD said in a statement that it was
not surprised by the administration's actions and that it was
committed to seeing the challenge through to the end.
“There is no doubt that DOMA brings
harm to families like our plaintiffs every day, denying married
couples and their children basic protections like health insurance,
pensions and Social Security benefits,” the group said.