Massachusetts same-sex couples file federal lawsuit challenging Defense of Marriage Act

[JURIST] A group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] law filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; GLAD press release] against the US federal government Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website], challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text]. The plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), United States Postal Service (USPS) [official websites], and other departments and officials of the US federal government, are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief as well as review of a number of agency actions. The lawsuit is a direct challenge to DOMA, which the plaintiffs claim violates their Fifth Amendment [text] right to equal protection as it applies to several federal laws and administrative rules. The lawsuit also asks the court to declare DOMA unconstitutional, and "enjoin the defendants from continuing to discriminate against the plaintiffs by treating them differently from similarly situated individuals who are married to persons of the opposite sex." In the compliant, the plaintiffs argue that DOMA:

as applied to plaintiffs, violates the United States Constitution by refusing to recognize lawful marriages for purposes of the laws governing benefits for federal employees and retirees, the Internal Revenue Code, the Social Security laws and the laws and regulations governing issuance of passports. The result of these violations of the Constitution is that each of the plaintiffs has been denied, and will continue to be denied, legal protections and benefits under federal law that would be available to them if their spouses were of the opposite sex.
The lawsuit has received support from several public officials, including Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [AG press release] and US Senator John Kerry [Boston.com report].

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website], the same organization that represented the lead plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) [official website] legalized same-sex marriage. The lawsuit comes amidst a number of legal developments regarding marriage between same-sex couples. Earlier this month, a New Jersey judge granted a divorce [JURIST report] to a same-sex couple who had married in Canada. In early February, a New York court ruled that the surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage performed in Canada was entitled to inherit [JURIST report] the estate of the deceased spouse. The judge in that case found no legal basis to treat the marriage between two men differently than heterosexual marriages performed in other countries or states. Also in February, the California Supreme Court [official website] announced that in March it will hear oral arguments [JURIST report] in three cases challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 [materials], the ballot measure passed in November [JURIST report] that banned same-sex marriage in California. In November 2008, a Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] judge signed a final order [JURIST report] allowing same-sex marriage in the state, a month after that court struck down [JURIST report] state statutes barring same-sex marriage as violations of the Connecticut state constitution because they discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

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