Justice department appeals DOMA ruling
 

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posted Friday, October 15, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 42

Justice department appeals DOMA ruling
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The federal Justice Department announced on October 12 that it was appealing a U.S. District Court decision that DOMA is unconstitutional. Federal Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on July 8 that Section 3 of DOMA violates the 10th Amendment, as well as the Equal Protection, Due Process, and Spending clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Tauro's decisions came in two Massachusetts cases, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the challenges to DOMA was brought by several same-sex couples, including U.S. Postal Service employee Nancy Gill, who could not obtain healthcare coverage for her wife, Marcelle Letourneau.

The other was brought by the state of Massachusetts, asserting that the federal DOMA usurped its right to define marriage, and deprived some of its legally married citizens of benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled. The Justice Department appeal was expected.

'We fully expected an appeal and are more than ready to meet it head on,' Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD's Civil Rights project director, said in a statement after the appeal was announced.

'DOMA brings harm to families like our plaintiffs every day, denying married couples and their children basic protections like health insurance, pensions, and Social Security benefits. We are confident in the strength of our case.'

GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) represented the plaintiffs in Gill.

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriages in 2004. State Attorney General Martha Coakley said she would defend the U.S. District Court ruling at the appeals court.

'DOMA is an unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional law that discriminates against Massachusetts married couples and their families,' she said in a statement.

The notice of appeal filed by the Justice Department means that the record of the trials in District Court will be sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Once the record is complete, the Justice Department will have 40 days to file its brief.

Then GLAD or the state of Massachusetts - depending on the case - will then have 30 days to file its own brief.

The Justice Department then has 14 days to file a reply brief.

At that point, the appeal will be scheduled for oral argument.

Briefing could be concluded by the spring of 2011 with oral argument to follow by the fall of 2011.

DOMA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

President Obama has said he opposes DOMA, but believes his administration is required to uphold existing federal law.

'As a policy matter, the president has made clear that he believes DOMA is discriminatory and should be repealed,' said Justice Department spokesperson Tracy Schmaler. 'The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged.'

The White House declined to comment on the appeal.

Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole said in an e-mail published in Metro Weekly, 'While most advocates including GLAD expected the administration would appeal the DOMA cases, we remain disappointed and frustrated that they continue to defend a law that serves no purpose but to harm our families. However, GLAD and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley have already made an unassailable case against DOMA. We are confident they will prevail.'



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