A judge in California ruled Wednesday (22 February) that the definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitional.
US District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White made the ruling in a case brought by federal government employee Karen Golinski who sued after health insurance benefits were denied for her wife.
Write wrote: 'In this matter, the court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.'
The judge also noted that DOMA 'fails even rational basis review' which is the lowest legal scrutiny.
DOMA is a US federal law that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. It was passed by both houses of The Congress by wide margins in 1996 and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.
Last year, President Barack Obama has instructed the Justice Department to no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA. Now defending the law in court is attorneys hired by the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which represented Golinski, praised the ruling.
'The Court agreed with us that sexual orientation discrimination by the government should receive heightened scrutiny under the constitution,' said John Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal. 'It then concluded that DOMA could not meet that standard, and that there was not even a rational justification to deny Karen Golinski the same spousal health care benefits that her heterosexual co-workers receive.'