.- In response to a federal judge in Massachusetts ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, critics of the move warned it could trigger âanother culture warâ and accused Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and the Obama administration of having âdeliberately sabotagedâ their defense of the case.
On July 8, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in two cases brought by the state Attorney General Martha Coakley and a homosexual activist group.
In the case brought forward by Coakley, Judge Tauro declared that DOMA compels Massachusetts to discriminate against its own residents to receive federal funds for certain programs, the New York Times reported.
The other case, brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), focused on the question of equal protection concerning a small number of federal benefits. The judge agreed that the federal law violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying benefits to one class of âmarried couples,â homosexuals, but not others.
"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,â the judge ruled, according to the New York Times.
He said the enactment and enforcement of DOMA âplainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state.â
More than 15,000 same-sex âmarriagesâ have been contracted in Massachusetts since a 2004 state court ruling required the practice to be recognized by law. Those in same-sex âmarriagesâ reportedly do not receive Social Security survivorsâ payments, do not have guaranteed work leave for a sick âspouse,â and cannot file taxes jointly.
In 1996 DOMA passed the U.S. House by a vote of 342-67. It passed the Senate by 85-14 and was signed by President Bill Clinton. The legislation defined marriage for federal purposes and protected states which do not recognize same-sex âmarriageâ from being forced to do so.
Mary Bonauto of GLAD praised Thursdayâs decisions. According to the New York Times, she said âToday, the court simply affirmed that our country won't tolerate second-class marriages.â
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), told the Associated Press that the rulings constituted âjudicial activismâ and deemed Judge Tauro to be âa rogue judge.â
"We can't allow the lowest common denominator states, like Massachusetts, to set standards for the country," Lafferty said, noting that voters have consistently rejected same-sex âmarriageâ at the ballot box.
In a Thursday statement Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), charged that under the guidance of then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who is now a Supreme Court nominee, âObamaâs justice department deliberately sabotaged this case.â
The Justice Departmentâs brief described DOMA as discriminatory.
"With only Obama to defend DOMA, this federal judge has taken the extraordinary step of overturning a law passed by huge bipartisan majorities and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996,â Brown continued. âA single federal judge in Boston has no moral right to decide the definition of marriage for the people of the United States.â
According to NOM, despite DOMA language saying that it was designed to protect childrenâs rights to their mothers and fathers, the judge disavowed that DOMA had anything to do with âresponsible procreation.â
"Does this federal judge want to start another culture war?" asked Maggie Gallagher, NOM chairman. "Does he really want another Roe v. Wade?â
Gallagher said that since the late nineteenth century, when Congress banned polygamy, the federal government has had the âclearâ right to define marriage for the purposes of federal law and federal territories.
âOnly an incompetent defense could have lost this case. We expect to win in a higher court," she commented.
Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), expressed confidence that the âerroneousâ decision would be overturned on appeal.
âThe federal DOMA does not violate equal protection principles and has not interfered with Massachusetts' freedom to determine its own definition of marriage,â he stated. He too blamed the decision on the âdeliberately weak legal defenseâ mounted by the Obama administration, which he noted has called for repeal of the law.
According to ABC News, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said that the Obama administration was "reviewing the decision" and had not yet decided whether to further defend the law in court.