[JURIST] The states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] along with several other groups in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Friday in support of the lower court ruling that found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional [text, PDF; JURIST report]. Friends of the court included a group of family law professors, members of the US House of Representatives and several New York City officials [brief texts, PDF]. The Second Circuit's ruling was the fourth federal decision finding that section 3 of DOMA [text], which denies federal marriage benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples, is an unconstitutional interference in a state's right to define marriage. The case involves a woman 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; married couples are exempt from this tax. In her decision, Judge Barbara Jones found that the provision did not pass the lowest level of scrutiny, rational basis review [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Currently on appeal, several other groups [materials] have shown their support for Jones' ruling by filing amicus briefs explaining why her ruling should be upheld.
The debate over LGBT rights is an ever-expanding issue. A recent JURIST Feature provides an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the topic. In August, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website] asked [JURIST report] the Supreme Court to review the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. Then, 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].