Judge Denies Motion to Stop Proceedings in DOMA Case
‘Harm which would befall the Plaintiffs if a stay were to be entered is significant’
On July 4, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, denied the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group’s (BLAG) motion to stay the proceedings in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) now pending in federal court in the District of Connecticut. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which is representing the plaintiffs, strongly opposed the motion for a stay.
In denying BLAG’s motion that the pending appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Windsor case made her ruling unnecessary, Judge Bryant cited potential harm to the Pedersen plaintiffs if the proceedings were halted. “The Court finds that the harm which would befall the Plaintiffs if a stay were to be entered is significant,” she wrote. “Entering a stay in this matter would essentially deny the Plaintiffs the right to advocate for their own interests, asking them instead to ‘stand aside while a litigant in another [case] settles the rule of law that will define the rights of both [parties].’”
“Our plaintiffs are being denied access to vital federal programs under DOMA, and we’re gratified that Judge Bryant affirmed their right to a resolution of their case,” said Mary L. Bonauto of GLAD, lead counsel in Pedersen. As long as Jerry Passaro continues to be denied his late husband’s pension; Anne Meitzen continues to be unable to go on her wife Joanne Pedersen’s health insurance, and Lynda DeForge continues to be unable to care for her wife Raquel Ardin because she can’t get Family Medical Leave, this case should be moving forward. Judge Bryant came to the right conclusion.”
The Judge also ruled that there was no harm to BLAG from denying a stay, that staying the case would not preserve judicial economy since the case is fully briefed and the court has already begun drafting a decision, and that it is in the public interest for there to be more opinions and analyses to enrich Supreme Court review, should that review be forthcoming.
Pedersen v. OPM involves six married couples and a widower, from Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, who have all been denied federal benefits only because of DOMA. Once Judge Bryant rules, an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals would likely follow. Both BLAG and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are seeking Supreme Court review of the Massachusetts & Gill cases from the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and DOJ has also sought review before judgment in Golinski, currently pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Learn more about Pedersen v. OPM and the plaintiffs involved: https://www.glad.org/doma/documents/