GLAD Challenges DOMA

On March 3, 2009, GLAD, with Mary Bonauto acting as lead attorney, opened the first salvo in the battle to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In particular, GLAD is challenging Section 3 of the law, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Here’s what The Progress Report, from the Center for America Progress, had to say:

 LAWSUIT TO OVERTURN DOMA: During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal DOMA, noting that “federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.” Today, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. GLAD is representing a group of gay plaintiffs who have been harmed by the federal refusal to recognize their marital rights. Under Section 3, legally married same-sex couples are excluded from any federal law or program that benefits other married individuals. The consequence of Section 3 is that gays and lesbians have been denied spousal protections in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits, and in the issuance of passports. In fact, according to a forthcoming Center for American Progress study by Ben Furnas and Josh Rosenthal, the average same-sex couple “will be denied over $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor benefits upon the death of the higher-earning spouse after retirement.” In Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management — filed in federal District Court in Boston — GLAD is arguing that Section 3 is unconstitutional because it violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and that it is “an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into marriage law.” “I think one way of looking at it is it’s about change and accepting diversity, and I believe that I’m no different than anybody else,” one plaintiff in the case explained. “I should get the same benefits as any other spouse of a federal employee for 27 years. I think our relationship may look different but it’s ultimately the same.” GLAD believes the suit “may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mark the first time the nation’s highest court heard a major DOMA challenge.”

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