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Topics In the News
Another Court Ruling against DOMA and Other Court Filings
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/31/12
Last updated on: 07/31/12
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Mary Bonauto of GLAD explains the issues involved in the Connecticut ruling.

On July 31, 2012, yet another federal court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of Connecticut reached the same conclusion as federal district judges in California, Massachusetts, and New York. In addition, a federal appeals court has also recently declared the law unconstitutional. Also on July 31, filings to the Supreme Court of the United States were made in connection with both the Proposition 8 case and two DOMA cases.

Judge Bryant, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2007, ruled in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, a case brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of six married gay and lesbian couples and one widower from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut who were denied federal benefits by virtue of DOMA. She held that the law violates the equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In a 104-page decision distinguished by the depth of its grounding in history and scholarship, Judge Bryant found that laws that classify people based on sexual orientation should be subject to "heightened scrutiny" by courts. In doing so, she cited the long history of discrimination suffered by homosexuals. In finding that the political power of gay people is limited, she noted the fact that legislators and voters have repeatedly adopted discriminatory laws and amendments that stigmatize and burden homosexual citizens.

Although she ruled that homosexuals were a suspect class and that classifications based on sexual orientation deserve heightened scrutiny, she found that DOMA "fails to pass constitutional muster even under the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny."

Judge Bryant rejected every argument put forward by the House Republican Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which defended the law after the Department of Justice declined to do so after determining that it was unconstitutional in February 2011.

Her decision concludes as follows: "In sum, having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

In a press release, GLAD's Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto hailed the decision. "Judge Bryant's ruling is very clear: married people are married and should be treated as such by the federal government. There is no legitimate basis for DOMA's broad disrespect of the marriages of same-sex couples," she said. "We are very pleased that the Court recognized that DOMA's creation of second-class marriages harms our clients who simply seek the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy."

In other news on the marriage equality front, the proponents of California's Proposition 8 filed a writ asking the Supreme Court of the United States to review the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Perry v. Brown that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In a long-anticipated filing, the Proponents asked the Court to decide "Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

The American Foundation for Equal Rights dream team of Theodore Olson and David Boies has 30 days in which to respond to the filing. They will presumably ask the Court not to hear the case. The Court will decide in September whether to accept it. If they decline to review, same-sex marriages will resume in California. If they accept the case, it will be argued in late 2012 or early 2013 and a decision issued by June 2013.

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed reports another development in the legal battle for marriage equality. The Supreme Court has granted a request from BLAG to delay until August 31 their response to the Department of Justice's request that the Court hear two DOMA cases.

In the video below, Mary Bonauto explains the issues involved in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management and introduces the plaintiffs.

The decision in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management may be read below.

Pedersen v Opm Sumjudg

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