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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 37
U.S. Justice Department asks Supreme Court to hear more marriage cases
Section One
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U.S. Justice Department asks Supreme Court to hear more marriage cases

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In petitions filed on September 12, the U.S. Department of Justice formally asked the Supreme Court to hear two additional cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

The DOJ is asking the high court to consider Windsor v. United States and Pedersen v. OPM. The cases are already on the Supreme Court docket with three other marriage cases, and the justices may decide whether to hear one or all of them at their September 24 conference, although they need not hear any of them.

In the Windsor case, Edie Windsor is suing because she was forced to pay federal estate taxes when her wife died, which she would not have had to pay had they been opposite-sex spouses.

In Pedersen, five same-sex couples and one widower are suing because they were excluded from federal programs they would otherwise have qualified for, solely because they were married to same-sex partners.

Federal district courts have ruled in both cases that DOMA violates the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the U.S. constitution. The DOJ and attorneys for the plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to expedite a decision by bypassing the appeals courts.

Passed in 1996, DOMA prohibits federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Because of the "Gay exception" created by DOMA, America's legally married Gays and Lesbians are excluded from more than 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities, including Social Security survivor benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, and the opportunity to take leave from work to care for a spouse.

FULL COURT PRESS
The DOJ has already petitioned the high court to decide the constitutionality of DOMA in two other cases.

In Golinski v. OPM, a federal employee in California is suing because DOMA prevented her from insuring her legally married wife under her federal health plan.

In what are now known as the "Consolidated Massachusetts Cases," the attorney general of Massachusetts is suing because DOMA prevents her state from offering benefits to legally married Massachusetts citizens. This case now includes Gill v. OPM, which also involves denial of federal insurance benefits to the same-sex spouse of a federal employee.

Golinski has already been decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a district court's ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional. Since the DOJ determined that it would no longer defend DOMA in court, the appeal is being handled by the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which represents Republican House Speaker John Boehner. BLAG has intervened in at least 12 cases involving DOMA thus far.

The Consolidated Massachusetts Cases have been decided by district courts, with appeals pending in the First Circuit.

Shaun Knittel contributed to this report.

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