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House files motion to defend federal marriage law

The Republican-led US House of Representatives [official website] filed a motion [text, PDF] Monday with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] seeking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. This follows the Obama administration's February announcement that it would no longer defend [JURIST report] the law's constitutionality. The motion, which purports to be unopposed by the plaintiffs and by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] seeks to instate the House as a defendant for the limited purpose of defending DOMA's constitutionality. At issue is whether Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, violates the Fifth Amendment's due process and equal protection [Cornell LII backgrounder] requirements. Former solicitor general Paul Clement [professional profile] filed the motion and is expected to lead the House's defense.

Last month, Congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would repeal DOMA [JURIST report]. Earlier in March, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] announced the launch of a legal advisory group [JURIST report] to defend DOMA. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in which the House wishes to intervene last November on behalf of Edith Windsor. Windsor, who was legally married to another woman, is challenging estate taxes assessed on property transferred to her after her wife's death that would not have been assessed on such a transfer between married partners of opposite sex.

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