US lawmakers defend DOMA in court filing

[JURIST] Members of the House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group defended the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] in a filing [text, PDF] on Friday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. In the filing, the three Republican members of the group, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website], responded to a motion for summary judgment by plaintiff Karen Golinski, whose request to extend her health insurance benefits to her wife was denied. Golinski seeks a declaration that DOMA is unconstitutional [Bloomberg report]. The group contends that Golinski's claim fails because DOMA "easily passes the rational basis test," which would apply because "sexual orientation is not a suspect or quasi-suspect class under the traditional factors used to determine such classes" including immutability and political powerlessness:

Given that the Ninth Circuit has just finished wrestling with the consequences of the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," Plaintiff should not be heard to contend that such issues cannot be rectified through the legislative process. Moreover, Plaintiff appears oblivious to the irony of maintaining that homosexuals have limited political power in a case in which her position is supported by the Department of Justice at the insistence of the President. In light of the Department's longstanding duty to defend the constitutionality of federal statutes, its decision to decline to defend the constitutionality of DOMA—notwithstanding its acknowledgment that reasonable arguments can be advanced in defense of Section 3, that it survives rational basis review, and that eleven Circuit Courts of Appeal, including the Ninth, disagree with its conclusion that heightened scrutiny applies—and instead adopt the very position advocated by Plaintiff, is particularly telling.
Earlier this month, at the fifteenth annual dinner hosted by equal rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) [advocacy website], President Barack Obama [official website] told gay rights activists that he would continue to fight for the repeal [JURIST report] DOMA.

Even though the Obama administration has stopped defending the constitutionality of DOMA [JURIST report], benefits continue to be denied. Just this week, a disabled Navy veteran filed a notice of appeal [JURIST report] with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [official website] for denying her partner a share of her disability benefits under DOMA. Carmen Cardona filed for veterans' spousal benefits last year but was denied. The Department of Veterans Affairs [official website] reportedly told her she could not receive benefits because her spouse was a woman, which is not a recognized marriage under federal law. The Department has declined to comment [Fox News report] on the potential litigation. In February, congressional Democrats introduced the Respect for Marriage Act [text], which was intended to repeal DOMA [JURIST report], but it has not yet passed.

 

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