Another Federal Court Rules Federal Ban on Marriage Recognition for Gay Couples Unconstitutional
WASHINGTON – In yet another blow to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), today, June 6, 2012, a federal court in New York ruled the law to be unconstitutional, and found that laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians should be subject to heightened scrutiny. The ruling comes in the case of Windsor v. United States, where DOMA forced the federal government to tax Edie Windsor’s wife’s estate as if they had never been married. The House Republican leadership hired private attorney Paul Clement to defend the statute in court and this is now the fourth out of four courts where Clement has defended DOMA and lost.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese released the following statement in response to the decision: “The dominoes continue to fall on DOMA with yet another federal court rightly calling it unconstitutional. All loving and committed married couples should be recognized by the federal government yet we continue to see the terrible pain DOMA inflicts on real families. The real question is when Speaker Boehner will see the writing on the wall and stop wasting taxpayer dollars defending this outrageous law and instead work to repeal it. Paul Clement’s record of zero for four speaks for itself.
“We applaud the ACLU and Edie Windsor, as well as the attorneys at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, for their incredible efforts on behalf of gay and lesbian couples across the nation and are confident that one day soon families will no longer have to live under the burden of this onerous law.”
Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. This year, legislatures in Maryland and Washington State approved marriage equality laws, but they are not yet in effect and are likely to be subject to popular referenda. Under a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even lawfully-married couples cannot be recognized by the federal government, and as a result are denied access to more than 1,100 rights, benefits and responsibilities under federal law. These include Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others.