Though the point of this blog is to talk about recent developments in the area of family law, we would be bereft if we didn’t take a moment to recognize the life of U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the District of Massachusetts. He passed away on Friday at 87 years old.
Judge Tauro presided over two cases attacking the federal Defense of Marriage Act. After finding that DOMA compelled Massachusetts to discriminate against its citizens in order to receive federal funding, and that it was the state’s right to recognize same-sex marriages and afford such couples any rights and benefits derived from that marital status. Judge Tauro’s decision was affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court declined to take the case after the decision of U.S. v. Windsor struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Judge Tauro’s decision in 2010 could be seen as the first of what became a wave of successful legal challenges to DOMA and, ultimately, legalized same-sex marriage.
The attack on DOMA was not his only major case over his 41 year career beginning with his appointment by President Richard Nixon. Other notable cases include his handling of a class action law suit leading to major reforms in Massachusetts institutional case for developmentally disabled people, as well as his facilitating a settlement involving systemic discrimination in Boston’s public housing system. He had a significant influence on the law through his decisions and the impact those who worked for him and with him.