A federal judge in Boston ruled July 8 — in two separate lawsuits — that a critical part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

In one lawsuit, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Judge Joseph Tauro, of the U.S. District Court in Boston, ruled that DOMA violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by taking from the states powers that the Constitution gave to them. In the other lawsuit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, he ruled that DOMA violates the equal protection principles embodied in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment in an effort to “disadvantage a group of which it disapproves.”

Federal judge rules portion of DOMA unconstitutional

Both of the lawsuits heard by Tauro targeted Section 3 of DOMA. That section states that, for federal government purposes, “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Neither lawsuit challenged the section of DOMA that enable any state to ignore valid marriage licenses issued to a same-sex couple in other states.

Legal observers believe both cases will eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for resolution.