HRC Blog

Court date set for GLAD’s Challenge of DOMA

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A date – May 6th – has been set for oral arguments in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the case challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro in the Federal District Court in Boston. The plaintiffs, seven married Massachusetts same-sex couples and three surviving spouses who have been denied federal benefits under section 3 of DOMA, are represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The Department of Justice will be handling the administration’s defense of DOMA. Enacted in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (Section 3) defines marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman under federal law, thereby denying lesbian and gay couples access to Social Security survivors’ benefits, joint tax filing, and over 1,100 other federal protections. DOMA (Section 2) also allows states to refuse to recognize marriages between same-sex couples that are solemnized in other states. GLAD’s case, Gill et al v. Office of Personnel Management et al, challenges only Section 3 of DOMA. Plaintiffs are arguing that discrimination by the federal government against people who are validly married violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. As a result of DOMA, plaintiffs have been denied survivor benefits on a deceased spouse’s pension, denied health insurance coverage for a spouse, denied Social Security death and widower benefits, and have been denied the ability to qualify for federal income tax benefits for married couples filing jointly. If the plaintiffs are successful, the federal government would be required to extend to same-sex married couples the same rights, protections, and responsibilities afforded to other married persons.

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