In two separate lawsuits heard by a federal court in Massachusetts, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in 1996 which defines marriage as “between a man and a woman” has today been deemed unconstitutional on two separate grounds.
The federal court held that DOMA interferes with a state’s right to define marriage as it sees fit. It further held that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. Although this ruling applies only to Massachusetts for now, it could have wide-ranging impact across the country.
In particular, the finding that DOMA violates the equal protection clause will be closely monitored by the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit in California alleging that Proposition 8, the law which defines marriage in California as between a man and a woman, is also unconstitutional. Plaintiffs in that case have argued that the California law is a violation of equal protection because it specifically seeks to exclude a target group of people of whom the voters disapproved.
It is expected that these two rulings will be appealed, but it is uncertain at this time how vigorously the Obama administration will attempt to overturn the court’s rulings. Stay tuned, more developments are bound to happen soon.