Is It Right to Strike Down the Defense of Marriage Act?
The Massachusetts decisions striking down the Defense of Marriage Act seem wrong, regardless of whether you support gay marriage or not. Personally, I don't think that the Constitution authorizes the federal courts to require all states to guarantee same sex marriage. The Constitution's normal path for change on moral and social issues is that the people of the states, one-by-one, can decide for themselves whether to extend marriage to gay couples. The Constitution gives each state the right to make different policy choices on the most basic life and death decisions, such as the death penalty or the right to die. Gay marriage should be decided the same way (and will lead to a stronger national consensus, no matter what results).
Instead, Judge Touro decided that gay marriage should follow the path of Roe v. Wade, which attempted to impose an immediate national solution on to the question of abortion. He based his decision on two claims: a) that the federal government cannot define marriage at odds with state law; and b) that the law was purely irrational. The first is certainly wrong, the second likely wrong. The federal government surely has the right to define marriage and a great deal of other legal arrangements as it likes when it decides how to spend money, whether to give tax breaks, and so on. It has even refused to allow territories, like Utah, to enter the Union unless it defined marriage not to include polygamy, for example. The federal government can give tax breaks only to heterosexual married couples, and a state can choose to define marriage as including gay couples -- neither intrudes on the other's constitutional authorities.
On the second point, if a court can overturn the government's decision that it is purely irrational for a state to encourage heterosexual marriage, then a great deal of other choices are going to be under question -- and I have a hard time seeing the current Supreme Court wanting to turn the federal judiciary into a third house of Congress to review all of these policy decisions. For example, if it is irrational to favor heterosexual marriage because Congress believes this will lead to more children, higher birth rates, more stable marriages, and the like, what is to prevent courts from overturning programs that favor married versus unmarried couples. Or couples over singles. Or couples over groups. The Massachusetts judge's approach would mean that laws banning adultery or group marriages are equally unconstitutional. My preference would be that the federal government not get into any sort of social planning by giving out the billions of dollars that it does for a wide variety of entitlement programs -- I think the federal Constitution was not originally understood to place the federal government in this kind of active social engineering role. But if the courts are going to read the Constitution to allow Congress to intrude into education, family, law, and so on, then the government is going to have the ability to make these kinds of judgments.