The husband of the late Congressman
Gerry Studds is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a law
that denies federal benefits to married gay couples.
The Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA) bars federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of
gay and lesbian couples.
Last July, a federal judge in
Massachusetts declared Section 3 of the law unconstitutional in two
cases filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the
legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
On Wednesday, the federal appeals court
in Boston will hear appeals in both cases.
For Dean Hara, who in 2004 married
Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds, DOMA means he is unable to receive
the pension provided to surviving spouses of federal members of
“Gerry and I spent 16 wonderful years
together and I miss him,” Dean said in a
GLAD profile. “I remember when he spoke on the floor of the
U.S House of Representatives during the debate about DOMA as I
watched from the visitor's gallery in July 1996. Back then, we
didn't know that we would ever be able to legally marry. Now that
Gerry is gone, I'm always reminded that DOMA denies fair and equal
“Gerry was a public servant for 27
years, worked hard for our country, and paid as much into the system
as anyone else,” said Hara, who works as a financial adviser. “But
after he died, I was treated differently than other surviving
spouses. Every federal employee counts on their surviving spouses
having basic protections, but the federal government denies me those
protections because of DOMA.”
Studds, who died suddenly at the age of
69 in 2006 from a blood clot, was re-elected to Congress after he
publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation in 1983 amid charges he
had an affair with a Congressional page.
Paul Clement will defend the law on
behalf of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which
last year, at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner, began
defending the law in court after President Obama directed the
Department of Justice to no longer do so.
reported that Clement will argue that Congress has a legitimate
interest in providing a federal definition of marriage.
“Congress has multiple rational bases
for preferring a uniform federal definition over a patchwork, so DOMA
should survive unless there is something categorically different
about marriage. There is not,” Clement wrote in legal briefs filed
in court. “Congress has ample power to define the terms used in
federal statutes to apportion federal benefits and burdens. Any
other rule would turn the Supremacy Clause and our constitutional
structure upside down.”
Pelosi criticizes John Boehner for defending gay marriage ban DOMA.)