Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two more suits against DOMA

As you may (or may not) recall, two cases from Massachusetts went to federal court earlier this year challenging DOMA, on the grounds that legally married Massachusetts couples were deprived of federal benefits solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. Federal Judge Joseph Tauro found that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice is appealing.

There are now two new DOMA cases, from other states in the Northeast where marriage equality exists, and where legally married couples are treated unequally simply because they are same sex. From the NY Times:
Joanne Pedersen tried to add her spouse to her federal health insurance on Monday. She was rejected. Again.

The problem is that while Ms. Pedersen is legally married to Ann Meitzen under Connecticut law, federal law does not recognize same-sex unions. So a health insurance matter that is all but automatic for most married people is not allowed for them under federal law…..
Taken together, said Mary Bonauto, the director of the Civil Rights Project for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the cases show same-sex couples “are falling through the safety net other people count on.” ….

“If we were heterosexual, we wouldn’t be talking today, because we would have the benefits,” Ms. Pedersen said. “I would just like the federal government to recognize our marriage as just as real as everybody else’s.”

And from Metroweekly:
The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) plans to file a lawsuit in Connecticut challenging DOMA’s Section 3, which defines "marriage" and "spouse" in federal law as being limited only to opposite-sex couples. The plaintiffs are to include couples from several New England states with marriage equality, including Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP plan to file a lawsuit on behalf of Edith Windsor, the widow of Thea Spyer. Windsor was forced to pay a $350,000 estate bill because of the federal government’s refusal to recognize Windsor's marriage to Spyer…..

"I have an 81-year-old client, and $350,000 is a hell of a lot of money -- a huge amount of money that she paid in violation of the Constitution," [Attorney Roberta] Kaplan said. "My client had to pay the government, and she wants her money back…."

….[Kaplan] said, "What I do think is true is that in this case the Department of Justice is going to have a very hard time coming up with a reason to give a judge in the Southern District of New York why Edie and Thea should be treated differently than if they were Edie and Theo."

Edie and Thea were the subject of a film.

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