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April 4, 2012

Federal Court Hears First Appellate Arguments Challenging DOMA

For the first time, a Federal Appeals Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Seven married same-sex couples and three widowers, plaintiffs in GLAD’s case Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to hear appellate arguments in their challenge to the law, which prevents them from accessing federal spousal protections as other married couples can.

“DOMA’s precise point was to create an across the board exclusion of same-sex couples in the U.S. Code,” Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director, argued before the court. “The promise of equal protection is that likes are to be treated alike – but DOMA treats married same-sex couples differently from all other married persons, making gay people and our marriages unequal to all others.”

Bonauto argued on behalf of the plaintiffs before a three-member Court of Appeals panel comprised of Chief Judge Sandra Lynch, Judge Michael Boudin, and Judge Juan Torruella.

Audio from the argument is available on the court’s website.  Please note the first 18 minutes were not recorded due to technical issues.

Visit GLAD’s blog for more information about the argument.

See more photos on Facebook.

In a July 2010 ruling in Gill - the first strategic, multi-plaintiff challenge to DOMA -  District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled Section 3 of the federal law unconstitutional. Republican leadership in Congress intervened to appeal that ruling, after President Obama declared he would no longer defend DOMA.

The Gill legal team is led by Bonauto and GLAD Legal Director Gary Buseck, with staff attorneys Vickie Henry and Janson Wu. Co-operating counsel on the case include Foley Hoag LLP (Boston), Sullivan & Worcester LLP (Boston), Jenner & Block LLP (Washington, DC) and Kator, Parks & Weiser, PLLC (Washington, DC).

For more information about the case and the plaintiffs, visit

Media Coverage

The Atlantic: The Losing Argument for the Defense of Marriage Act

WBUR: Appeals Court Hears Gay Marriage Law Case

New York Times: Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Gay Marriage Law

Chicago Tribune/Reuters: Court Hears Appeals Over Anti-Gay Marriage Law

Broadside (Video): DOMA On Trial In Boston

Los Angeles Times: DOMA: US Appeals Court Takes Up Defense of Marriage Act

MetroWeekly: Federal Appeals Judges Consider Whether DOMA Is Constitutional In Historic Hearing In Boston

The Advocate: Courtroom Coverage: DOMA Under Scrutiny In Federal Appeal

Washington Blade: HISTORIC: Oral arguments heard in DOMA challenge  and Plaintiffs optimistic after DOMA arguments

Prop 8 Trial Tracker: For the first time, a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act is heard by an appeals court

Boston Globe: Op-ed by Plaintiff Dean Hara

On Liberty: There’s Nothing Rational About Marriage Discrimination

MA Lawyer’s Weekly: 1st Circuit Hears DOMA Arguments

National Law Journal: 1st Circuit Hears Same-Sex Marriage Dispute (login required)

Pre-Hearing Coverage:

Associated Press: Battle over federal Defense of Marriage Act heads to appeals court in Mass.

Metro Weekly: Stage Is Set for April 4th Arguments in First Circuit DOMA Challenge Appeal