Human Rights Campaign Comments on Historic Challenge to Discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act"

by HRC Staff

"We applaud the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for stepping forward on behalf of these families and saying, in essence, 'Enough is enough,'" said HRC President Joe Solmonese

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, today commends the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Attorney General Martha Coakley for filing a federal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), which denies thousands of married same-sex couples in Massachusetts access to over 1,000 federal protections, benefits and obligations. This lawsuit, which names the United States and the Secretaries and Departments of Veterans affairs and Health and Human Services as defendants, marks the first time that a state has challenged the federal government's discriminatory treatment of its LGBT citizens.

The complaint in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services et al points out that discrimination against same-sex married couples bears no nexus to the purposes of federal programs like Medicaid.

"The Commonwealth has presented the court with the stark facts of discrimination that should finally spell the end of DOMA," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Excluding our families from equal protections never had anything to do with promoting a legitimate interest, and has everything to do with discrimination."

"DOMA was wrong, discriminatory and mean-spirited when it was enacted in 1996, and today it stands between thousands of married couples and the equal protections they deserve," Solmonese said. "We applaud the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for stepping forward on behalf of these families and saying, in essence, 'enough is enough.' Now it is time for the federal government to take affirmative steps to challenge and repeal this discriminatory law that causes real harm to loving, married couples and their children."

Massachusetts was the first state to recognize equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, granting licenses starting in May 2004. Although thousands of same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts, and are fully equal under the Commonwealth's laws, they are denied such essential benefits as equal Social Security benefits for surviving spouses, joint tax filing, equal family and medical leave, and many more. Although these couples and all Massachusetts citizens pay equal federal taxes, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can only receive funding for such programs as Medicaid and veterans cemeteries if it creates two, separate classes of married people - those who receive equal access and those who do not.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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