Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another DOMA challenge switches it up

From the Prop8 Trial Tracker, news of another DOMA case.  This one challenges a private company's actions following the death of a legally married lesbian, Ellyn Farley,  whose parents are fighting her wife Jennifer Tobits over Ellyns pension. (Some parents, eh?)
After Ellyn died, her parents, who did not approve of her sexuality, attempted to collect her pension plan benefits. Cozen O’Connor, the firm administering the pension, filed suit asking the Court to determine who should receive Ellyn’s benefits, and Tobits filed a counterclaim against Cozen for breach of fiduciary duty, arguing that it had a responsibility to inform her that it would not recognize spouses of the same sex. 
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing Tobits in the case, points out that this case is the first of its kind because it concerns the application of DOMA to a private company, not the federal government. In the O’Connor case, Cozen has argued that DOMA prevents it from recognizing same-sex spouses and providing them equal benefits.
The article goes on to explain that DOMA has never been considered to apply to private companies (indeed, many firms explicitly recognized married gay people) so this would be an unprecedented expansion were the court to find that it does.  Seems unlikely, but one never knows.

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