In the latest of a series of legal advances for LGBT equality, Judge Jeffery White, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act {DOMA) is unconstitutional, in violation of the equal protection clause. The ruling is available here.

The case concerns Karen Golinski, a staff attorney at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, who was legally married to a woman under Proposition 8 in 2008. Her marriage was consecrated in the interregnum period between May and November of that year and is still legal in the state of California. However, as a federal employee, she is ineligible for partner benefits under DOMA because the federal government does not recognize her union as a lawful marriage. Golinski sued over the constitutionality of the law.

This was one of the first DOMA cases ruled upon since the Obama Administration refused to defend the law. Instead, House Speaker John Boehner inaugurated the “Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group” (which I don’t think is all that bipartisan, actually) and hired former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to argue the case. He failed pretty badly. As Think Progress pointed out, the judge ruled that the “heightened scrutiny” threshold for discrimination against LGBT individuals held across the board:

HISTORY OF DISCRIMINATION: The first factor courts consider is whether the class has suffered a history of discrimination. There is no dispute in the record that lesbians and gay men have experienced a long history of discrimination.

ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY: Similarly, there is no dispute in the record or the law that sexual orientation has no relevance to a person’s ability to contribute to society.

IMMUTABILITY: Regardless of the evidence that a tiny percentage of gay men or lesbians may experience some flexibility along the continuum of their sexuality or the scientific consensus that sexual orientation is unchangeable, the Court finds persuasive the holding in the Ninth Circuit that sexual orientation is recognized as a defining and immutable characteristic because it is so fundamental to one’s identity.

POLITICAL POWERLESSNESS: The Court finds that the unequivocal evidence demonstrates that, although not completely politically powerless, the gay and lesbian community lacks meaningful political power… Although this factor is not an absolute prerequisite for heightened scrutiny, the Court finds the evidence and the law support the conclusion that gay men and lesbians remain a politically vulnerable minority.

This case actually has more potential to be a binding precedent on the country in terms of marriage equality than the Prop 8 case which the Ninth Circuit ruled upon, and which will now be taken up by an en banc panel. The Prop 8 case, in the Ninth Circuit ruling, was limited specifically to ballot initiatives with no other purpose than to harm gays and lesbians, specifically to take rights away from them that they have already gained. But this looks to be a much broader ruling, arguing that DOMA itself violates the Constitution. There’s a high likelihood that the Golinski case, perhaps combined with some other DOMA cases making their way through the courts, will reach the Supreme Court and serve as a precedent on marriage equality matters.