The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday filed petitions in the US Supreme Court [official websites] asking them to consider two additional challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text]. The recent petitions [Reuters report] bring the number of cases challenging DOMA in the Supreme Court to four. These petitions argue that section 3 of DOMA, which denies federal marriage benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples, is an unconstitutional interference in a state's right to define marriage. The first petition is a challenge brought by Edie Windsor whose same-sex marriage was recognized in New York, but not by the federal government under DOMA. When her spouse died, she was required to pay over $360,000 in federal estate taxes while married couples are exempt from this tax. The second challenge is a less publicized case that involves six same-sex couples and one widower who have been denied federal benefits under the law. In both the first case and the second case [opinions, PDF], DOMA has been held unconstitutional by federal courts and are currently on appeal.
This is the most recent development in the ongoing same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] debate. Earlier this week several groups joined Windsor's challenge [JURIST report]. In August the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders [advocacy website] asked [JURIST report] the Supreme Court to review the second case mentioned above. In July a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] in a DOMA challenge that seeks to achieve for gay and lesbian couples the same federal immigration rights afforded to heterosexual couples [JURIST report] under the Immigration and Nationality Act [materials] In addition, JURIST has published two editorials related to DOMA earlier this month. The first focuses the potential constitutional flaws of DOMA [JURIST comment] and the second discusses the deeper federalism issues that are contained in the law [JURIST op-ed].