Rights groups file lawsuits challenging Defense of Marriage Act
Rights groups file lawsuits challenging Defense of Marriage Act
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[JURIST] The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed separate federal lawsuits Tuesday challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. In GLAD’s lawsuit [text, PDF; press release], several plaintiffs are challenging the denial of certain marriage benefits and protections that are available to similarly situation heterosexual couples in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. The plaintiffs have been denied these benefits because, according to DOMA, “‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” GLAD’s Legal Director Gary Buseck said:

Every day that DOMA stands, it arbitrarily divides married couples into two categories. And the extra burdens that DOMA has imposed on Massachusetts families since 2004 are now being endured by families in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.

In the ACLU lawsuit [text, PDF; press release], filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], plaintiff Edith Windsor is challenging provisions of DOMA that deprive of her certain tax deductions she would receive as a widow.

In October, the US Department of Justice filed two notices of appeal [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website], defending DOMA. In July, Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the DOMA definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional [JURIST report] because it interferes with the states’ right to define marriage. The Obama administration has extended some federal benefits [JURIST report] to same-sex couples, including allowing domestic partners to be added to insurance programs, to use medical facilities, and to be included in family size and house allocation considerations. In June, Obama ordered executive agencies to expand [JURIST report] federal childcare subsidies and services and travel and relocation payments to the same-sex partners of federal employees and their children. The Obama administration has said DOMA is discriminatory but has maintained that it is nonetheless constitutional. In March, the District of Columbia joined Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts [JURIST reports] in legalizing same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], extending the full benefits available at the state level to same-sex spouses. DOMA was passed in 1996.