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US veteran challenges benefits claim denied under DOMA

A disabled Navy veteran filed a notice of appeal [CT Post report] Thursday with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [official website] for denying her partner a share of her disability benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. 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. Although in February, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that it would no longer defend the constitutionality [JURIST report] of DOMA in court cases challenging the provision, there is no obligation on federal agencies not to enforce the law.

US President Barack Obama [official website] told gay rights activists in October that he would continue to fight for the repeal [JURIST report] of DOMA, reinforcing that the DOJ is not defending its constitutionality. However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] announced that he was launching a legal advisory group to defend [JURIST report] DOMA in March, stating "[t]he constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts, not by the president unilaterally, and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution." 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. A July 2010 ruling [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts found that Section 3 of DOMA violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and State Sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment [text]. Currently DOMA allows other states to ignore those recognized same-sex marriages, and prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits available to married couples.

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