WASHINGTON -- A judge in Boston has ruled the federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro decided against the Defense of Marriage Act in two separate challenges on Thursday, arguing that the 1996 law interferes with a state's right to define marriage.
DOMA was enacted by Congress after Hawaii appeared to be headed toward legalizing same-sex marriage. Aside from specifically defining marriage, the law also gives states the right to deny same-sex marriages recognized in another state.
CBN News spoke with Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, about this case and the recent challenges to traditional marriage. Click play to watch.
"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," Tauro wrote in his ruling on the case filed by Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley.
Tauro called the federal ban a violation of the "core constitutional principles of equal protection" that "denies same-sex married couples the federal marriage-based benefits that similarly situated heterosexual couples enjoy."
"The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment," he continued. "For that reason, the statute is invalid."
The Justice Department said it's deciding whether to appeal. If it does, the case could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Tauro's decision has added fuel to an already fiery national debate.
While Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage - Americans in 31 states have voted to ban it. One of those states was California.
Proposition 8, the California measure that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman - was also challenged. The ruling in that case is highly likely to go to the Supreme Court.
Currently, marriage requirements are determined by each state. But it becomes a federal issue when considering taxes, social security claims and health care benefits.
Consequently, such cases ultimately could be determined by the justices of the High Court, ultimately defining marriage for the whole country.
*Originally published July 9, 2010.