Obama administration urges U.S. Supreme Court to strike down DOMA
‘Gay and lesbian people have been subject to a significant history of discrimination in this country’
February 22, 2013 lgbtqnation Staff Reports
The Obama administration on Friday filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing why it considers the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.
Filed in United States v. Windsor, a case challenging Section 3 of DOMA, the administration said “gay and lesbian people have been subject to a significant history of discrimination in this country,” and argued that laws targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation should face additional scrutiny by courts reviewing them.
In the brief, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli asked the court to uphold a federal appeals court ruling that found DOMA to be unconstitutional:
Section 3 of DOMA violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional.
This case deals with Edith Windsor, who was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes in 2009 upon the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer. The two had lived as a couple for 44 years and married in Canada in 2007. Because her decades-long partner was a woman, the federal government did not recognize the same-sex marriage in legal terms, even though their home state of New York did.
Section 3 of DOMA, which bars legally married same-sex couples from any federal benefits or programs based on marriage, has been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts, including the First and Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on issues including bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration.
The brief also mentions Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and similar measures in other states as evidence of continued discrimination against gays and lesbians.
High court strikes down federal marriage provision
6/26/13 By MARK SHERMAN | Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. The vote was 5-4.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.
The court has yet to release its decision on California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy said.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he said.
He was joined by the court’s four liberal justices.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
June 28, 2013
Statement by the President on the Extension of Federal Employee Benefits
Today my Administration announced that, for the first time in history, we will be making important federal employee benefits, including healthcare and retirement benefits, available to eligible married gay and lesbian couples and their families.
This is a critical first step toward implementing this week’s landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that all married couples –gay and straight — should be treated equally under federal law. Thousands of gays and lesbians serve our country every day in the federal government. They, and their spouses and children, deserve the same respect and protection as every other family.
Under the leadership of Attorney General Holder, we will continue to move as quickly as possible to fully implement the Court’s decision.
Obama admin acts quickly post-DOMA
Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:54 PM EDT By Steve Benen – maddowblog
After the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Obama administration officials vowed to move quickly to implement the ruling throughout the federal government.
And while I believed them, I didn’t realize they’d move this fast (thanks to my colleague Cory Gnazzo for the heads-up). Chris Geidner reports:
“[T]he United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will now be able to extend benefits to Federal employees and annuitants who have legally married a spouse of the same sex,” OPM acting director Elaine Kaplan writes to the heads of executive departments and agencies today.
What does this mean in practical terms? The Human Rights Campaign added:
The United States Office of Personnel Management has begun the process of extending federal rights and benefits to married gay and lesbian federal employees and their families…. Now that the federal government recognizes legally married same-sex couples, federal employees’ spouses and their families may now access health insurance benefits, life insurance, dental and vision insurance and retirement benefits.
“My general view is that transgender persons, just like gays and lesbians, are deserving of equal treatment under the law. And that’s a basic principle,” the president said. “My sense is that the Supreme Court is about to make a shift, one that I welcome, which is to recognize that — having hit a critical mass of states that have recognized same-sex marriage — it doesn’t make sense for us to now have this patchwork system and that it’s time to recognize that, under the equal protection clause of the United States, same-sex couples should have the same rights as anybody else.”
US LGBT Rights Timeline 1903-2016 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)