RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
Supporters of gay marriage are cheering a federal court ruling out of Boston. The judge said yesterday that part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act - or DOMA - is unconstitutional. That's the law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Gay rights advocates say the court ruling could bring federal recognition to gay marriages from Massachusetts. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.
TOVIA SMITH: Federal District Court Judge Joseph Tauro agreed, saying that when it comes to providing benefits, he could conceive of, quote, "no way" in which a couple's sexual orientation is relevant.
MONTAGNE: I was cooking dinner and I heard it, and I just let out a big woo-hoo.
SMITH: For Nancy Gill, it means that her longtime partner Marcelle Letourneau, who she married in 2006, can now get health insurance through Gill's job with the U.S. Postal Service.
MONTAGNE: I just think how life-changing this can be for our family. And, I mean, it gives us peace of mind.
SMITH: The court ruled that denying benefits to gay couples was not only discriminatory, but also a violation of states' rights. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley made that argument in a parallel, separate suit, accusing the federal government of encroaching on state sovereignty, and the court agreed.
MONTAGNE: It's exactly the result that we that wanted, which was to say the federal government really doesn't have an interest in telling Massachusetts, and has never in the past had an ability to dictate how states define marriage. Marriage has been an issue that has been decided by the states.
SMITH: Brian Brown is with the National Organization for Marriage.
MONTAGNE: That's absurd to say that the voters in 31 states, who've held that marriage is the union of a man and woman, are somehow bigots. That's absurd. And what this judge is essentially doing is declaring a new cultural war.
SMITH: But Ohio State University professor Marc Spindelman says the Massachusetts decision may prove to be broadly influential.
P: The court's decision doesn't box any other court in, but it's certainly likely to be persuasive authority and virtually certain to have significant ripple effects.
SMITH: Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.
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