Gay Groups Target DOMA with New Lawsuits

By Peter J. Smith

NEW YORK, November 10, 2010 ( – Two more lawsuits have been launched against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), bringing even more legal pressure to bear on the beleaguered marriage law.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut on behalf of three homosexual couples and one widower who were denied federal spousal benefits.

“DOMA must fall,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director. Bonauto contended that the intent of passing DOMA in 1996 “was to harm gay people and same-sex families with this law, and sadly, it has succeeded.”

“Married gay and lesbian couples fall through the federal safety nets that exist for other married people,” she said.

The case is Pedersen et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, and is the second front GLAD has opened up against DOMA.

Earlier this summer a U.S. District Judge in Massachusetts ruled unconstitutional Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage for federal purposes as the legal union of a man and a woman.  Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston said DOMA violates the principle of equal protection guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and “encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state,” violating the Tenth Amendment.

The Obama Justice Department has appealed the ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union is also attacking DOMA on a similar front, contending that a New York homosexual couple married in Canada had their rights violated, because inheritance laws did not apply to them under DOMA.

The case Windsor v. United States of America complains that Edith “Edie” Windsor had to pay significant estate taxes on the property she inherited from her deceased partner, Thea Spyer, because DOMA meant the federal government did not have to recognize their Canadian marriage.

The ACLU argues the federal government ought to recognize Windsor as deserving of the same tax treatment as married heterosexual couples on the basis that the state of New York recognized the Canadian marriage as valid in state law.

Although President Barack Obama says he supports a repeal of DOMA, he has advocated for a legislative solution in Congress. This has chagrined many of his supporters who view the federal courts as the fastest and surest way to repeal DOMA.

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