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GLAD Presser: Federal Court Hears Arguments in DOMA Challenge

Photos of post-hearing GLAD presser via Facebook.

Video of Mary Bonauto’s press conference.

New press release from GLAD:




Federal Court Hears Arguments in DOMA Challenge

This morning in Boston, six years after the first same-sex couples in the country started marrying in Massachusetts, eight married same-sex couples and three widowers went to Federal District Court to hear arguments in their challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defines marriage as only between a man and a woman for all purposes under federal law.

Represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the plaintiffs in Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, all married in Massachusetts, have each been harmed by DOMA treating them as unmarried.


“This is a classic equal protection issue. The Constitution applies to gay and lesbian citizens, and married ones, too,” Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director, told the Court.

“What governmental purpose does the US have as an employer in treating some of its married employees, retirees and surviving annuitants differently from other married persons, such that Nancy Gill pays for a self and family plan like some of her married colleagues, but the plan doesn’t cover her own spouse?”

Bonauto presented a three-pronged legal argument: By singling out only the marriages of same-sex couples, DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution; DOMA represents an unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into marriage law, which for 230 years has been legislated by states; and by denying federal protections to families, DOMA burdens the marriages of same-sex couples and their right to maintain family integrity.

U.S. District Court Judge, Joseph L. Tauro, vigorously questioned plaintiffs and defendants in a courtroom packed with supporters and media.  Judge Tauro heard GLAD’s motion for summary judgment as well as the federal government’s motion to dismiss. The hearing addressed the core issue of whether DOMA Section 3 is constitutional six years after the first same-sex couples in the country started marrying in Massachusetts, the result of GLAD’s groundbreaking marriage case, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.

As a result of DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996, plaintiffs in GLAD’s lawsuit have been denied survivor benefits on a deceased spouse’s pension; denied health insurance coverage for a spouse on a federal family plan; denied Social Security spousal, death, and widower benefits; and denied the ability to file federal income taxes jointly as married.

“DOMA means that our country doesn’t treat our family or our marriage as equal to our friends’ and coworkers’ families,” said plaintiff Nancy Gill after the hearing. A U.S. Postal Service employee, Gill, with her spouse Marcelle Letourneau, is raising two children in Brockton. “Under DOMA, we are not married, and my federal employer must deny Marcelle my health benefits. Under DOMA Marcelle won’t receive the federal health benefit given to surviving spouses. She’ll also be denied my pension benefits.”

Gill was filed on March 3, 2009, and has been called the case with the greatest potential for national impact by the National Law Journal. The Gill legal team is led by Bonauto and GLAD Legal Director Gary Buseck, and staff attorneys Nima Eshghi, Janson Wu, and Samuel Bickett.  Co-operating counsel on the case include Foley Hoag LLP (Boston), Sullivan & Worcester LLP (Boston), Jenner & Block LLP (Washington, DC) and Kator, Parks & Weiser, PLLC (Washington, DC).

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

Information about the case, the plaintiffs, and the attorneys representing them can be found at www.glad.org/doma.

                              # # #

Below the fold, GLAD’s Twitterfeed for the day.From GladLaw:


#DOMA : This is a classic equal protection issue. The Constitution applies to gay & lesbian citizens, married ones, too http://bit.ly/cACbGP

34 minutes ago via web

Video: Press conference following today’s #DOMA hearing, Atty Mary Bonauto answers questions http://bit.ly/bldrZY

about 1 hour ago via bit.ly

RT @AMERICAblogGay At DOMA hearing, GLAD challenges that law’s constitutionality while DOJ defends it. http://bit.ly/cf6Dli

about 1 hour ago via web

Photos from the press conference after today’s #DOMA hearing in federal court http://bit.ly/97dsxC

about 2 hours ago via bit.ly

A good question outside the courthouse #DOMA http://yfrog.com/0t6m4rj

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

More coverage to come, including video of post-hearing press conference. Stay tuned.

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Another great point from Mary’s argument: the constitution applies to gay people, including married ones.

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Mary (cont): There was no prior (federal) definition of marriage before #DOMA. Fed govt cared only whether a person is married @ state level

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Prior to #DOMA we had 230 yrs of states determining who’s married. Congress changd the rule only when it lookd like ss couples might marry

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

On the Defendant’s argument that #DOMA maintained the status quo: DOMA upended the status quo. (cont)

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

(and #DOMA fails on all of them)

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

I believe we’re right on all our arguments. There is no rational basis for #DOMA & heightened scrutiny is the correct basis to apply (MB)..

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Judge Tauro asks Mary on what basis he should decide the question of #DOMA’s constitutionality. Her reply:

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Mary Bonauto began argument today saying that “This is a classic equal protection issue.” #DOMA

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

No Internet inside the courthouse. Will post a few choice moments from Mary’s argument shortly #DOMA

about 5 hours ago via Twitterrific

Plaintiffs and attorneys have all arrived at court. Waiting to begin. #DOMA

about 7 hours ago via Twitterrific

Arriving at the courthouse for argument Much excitement #DOMA

about 8 hours ago via mobile web

Mary Bonauto preparing to talk to #DOMA plaintiffs before this morning’s hearing! http://yfrog.com/iz39rj

about 8 hours ago via Twitterrific

Plaintiffs in GLAD’s #DOMA lawsuit fuel up for their day in court. Hearing in Boston today at 10:30.

about 8 hours ago via Twitterrific

A Date With Destiny – #DOMA challenge plaintiff Beatrice Hernandez on what today means to her and her wife http://bit.ly/cyCn8V

about 9 hours ago via bit.ly

Get ready for today’s hearing in fed crt w/ NPR’s Tovia Smith: Gay Couples Challenge Defense of Marriage Act http://n.pr/agM30i #DOMA #LGBT

about 10 hours ago via bit.ly

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