If Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is looking for a little more ammunition in order to shoot down Proposition 8, one of his Massachusetts colleagues just gave him some.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled Thursday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the Equal Protection Clause. Congress passed DOMA in 1996, defining marriage as a heterosexual union for purposes of a host of federal benefits and classifications.
In his opinion, Tauro found that DOMA didn't even survive rational basis review, which is the least exacting form of constitutional scrutiny. Denying same-sex partners the right to marry isn't rationally related to raising stable children, Tauro wrote.
"An interest in encouraging responsible procreation plainly cannot provide a rational basis upon which to exclude same-sex marriages from federal recognition because, as Justice Scalia pointed out in his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas, the ability to procreate is not now, nor has it ever been, a precondition to marriage in any state in the country," Tauro wrote.
He continued: "Indeed, 'the sterile and the elderly' have never been denied the right to marry by any of the fifty states. And the federal government has never considered denying recognition to marriage based on an ability or inability to procreate."
Walker raised many of the exact same points during the recent federal challenge to Proposition 8, questioning lawyers, for example, about why the elderly are permitted to marry.
A huge part of the plaintiffs' case in the Prop 8 trial involved whether gays and lesbians make good parents. Tauro weighed in on that, too.
"Since the enactment of DOMA, a consensus has developed among the medical, psychological, and social welfare communities that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents," Tauro wrote.
The trial in Walker's courtroom ended last month, and a ruling could come at any time.
Tauro used unequivocal language in striking down DOMA.
"Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves," he wrote. "And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit."
Tauro found that the federal ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define the institution and therefore denies married gay couples some federal benefits.
The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004. Tauro agreed and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens in order to be eligible for federal funding in federal-state partnerships.
The act "plainly encroaches" upon the right of the state to determine marriage, Tauro said in his ruling on a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley. In a ruling in a separate case filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro ruled the act violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The rulings apply to Massachusetts but could have broader implications if they're upheld on appeal.
Editor's note: Information from The Associated Press contributed to this online report.