September 5, 2012
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is gearing up for an historic year in which one of its two challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Gill v. Office of Personnel Management or Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management will likely be heard at the United States Supreme Court. Legal observers have called Gill a “blockbuster”, “game-changer”, and the “the case to watch” in the drive to knock out DOMA.
To support the effort, GLAD has launched the Supreme Court Showdown campaign, pledging to Knock Out DOMA. GLAD will raise funds to support legal preparations for the groundbreaking cases, as well as to educate the public about the harms caused by DOMA.
“We have been preparing since May 17, 2004, the day that marriage became a reality for same-sex couples in the United States,” said Lee Swislow, Executive Director of GLAD. “Right then and there we began crafting our legal challenge to DOMA. We have a smart strategy, the best possible legal team, inspiring and committed plaintiffs, and the right case at the right time.”
GLAD filed Gill in March 2009. Two federal courts – the Massachusetts District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit – have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional and that Gill plaintiffs deserve to be treated equally under the law and have their marriage respected by the federal government. GLAD filed Pedersen in November 2009, and on July 31, 2012, Judge Vanessa Bryant of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut also ruled in those plaintiffs’ favor finding DOMA unconstitutional. GLAD has now petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari before judgment in Pedersen.
The First Circuit called Supreme Court review of GLAD’s Gill DOMA case “highly likely” in its unanimous ruling against the law. The Supreme Court will likely decide by the end of October whether it will review either case. To sign up for text alerts about this and other case developments, visit www.glad.org/text-alerts.
The plaintiffs in Gill and Pedersen are legally married same-sex couples and widowers, all of whom have been denied a federal marriage-related right or benefit because of DOMA. “Our plaintiffs have shared the details of their lives and their relationships with judges, with the media, and with total strangers. They’ve waited patiently and courageously,“ said Swislow. “It’s time they were treated the same as their married friends and neighbors.”
GLAD’s victory in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in 2003 made Massachusetts the first state in which same-sex couples could marry. Goodridge opened the door to marriage equality in other subsequent states, and positioned GLAD as a strategic leader in the marriage equality movement. GLAD also won the Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health case in 2008, which brought marriage to Connecticut, and co-counseled in the Baker v. Vermont case which brought civil unions to that state in 1999.
Developments in Gill and Pedersen can be followed at www.glad.org/DOMA.