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.
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 www.glad.org/DOMA
The Atlantic: The Losing Argument for the Defense of Marriage Act
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
Boston Globe: Op-ed by Plaintiff Dean Hara
MA Lawyer’s Weekly: 1st Circuit Hears DOMA Arguments
National Law Journal: 1st Circuit Hears Same-Sex Marriage Dispute (login required)