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December 7, 2012

Supreme Court to Hear DOMA, Prop 8 Challenges

Today, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor which challenges the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Court also granted a hearing to Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8. Arguments before the Court are likely to take place in March 2013.

“DOMA creates a gay-only exception to federal recognition of state-licensed marriages, and we believe that the federal government should stop discriminating against same-sex couples legally married by their states. We know from working with legally married same-sex couples since 2004 in Massachusetts that DOMA undermines their security in every aspect of life and death,” said Mary L. Bonauto, director of GLAD’s Civil Rights Project.

GLAD’s two DOMA challenges, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management were also considered at today’s Supreme Court conference but were not granted certiorari. GLAD filed Gill, the country’s first strategic challenge to DOMA in 2009; and filed Pedersen in 2010.  Gill was the first case in which DOMA was found unconstitutional by a federal District Court, and also achieved the first appellate ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional in May 2012.

Of California’s Prop 8 case, Bonauto said, “The ability to commit in marriage to the person you love is profoundly important and should not have been taken away from committed same-sex couples. GLAD has been leading the fight for marriage equality for two decades, including the historic marriage equality breakthroughs in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and we are committed to the success of this case. That the issue will soon be heard by the Supreme Court is a vindication of our work to achieve equal protection under the law for same-sex couples. This day has been long in the making, and we are committed to the success of this case.”

Gill plaintiffs are married couples and widowers from Massachusetts, which became the first marriage equality state after GLAD’s 2003 victory in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Pedersen plaintiffs are married couples and a widower from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

DOMA denies federal recognition of the lawful marriages of same-sex couples, thereby denying legally married same-sex couples critical federal protections that other married couples receive.

Gill was held by the Court and will most likely be addressed by the Court in June.

The Windsor case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. The Perry case was brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

For more information about DOMA, visit www.glad.org/doma.

Co-operating counsel in Gill and Pedersen are Jenner & Block LLP (Washington, DC), Foley Hoag LLP (Boston), Sullivan & Worcester LLP (Boston), Horton Shields & Knox (Hartford), and Kator Parks (Washington, D.C.).