145 House Democrats, including House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and New
York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, have filed an amicus brief against
the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The brief was filed in support of Edith
Windsor, the 83-year-old lesbian plaintiff who received an estate
bill of more than $360,000 after the death of her wife Thea Spyer.
Windsor sued, arguing that DOMA, which bars federal agencies from
recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, violates
the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.
On June 6, New York District Judge
Barbara Jones ruled in favor of Windsor. Windsor has in turn asked
the Supreme Court to review the case. If the high court agrees to
take the case, the lawsuit would bypass consideration before an
The lawmakers argue in their brief that
Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
“Even under rational basis as applied
by the Supreme Court in cases where the rights of a minority are at
stake, Section 3 is unconstitutional. Section 3 does not achieve,
but undermines, the actual interests served by the programs that take
marital status into account, and denying recognition to couples who
already are married under state law does not rationally serve any of
the reasons relied upon by Congress in 1996 or created in response to
this litigation,” the
“[I]t is impossible to believe that
any legitimate federal interest is rationally served by depriving a
widow like Windsor of the marital deduction that allows married
couples to pass property to the surviving spouse without penalty,
thus maximizing the survivor's financial well-being.”
The House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory
Group (BLAG) at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner
intervened to defend the law after President Barack Obama instructed
the Department of Justice to no longer defend DOMA in court.
This is the second brief House
Democrats have file against DOMA. In July, they filed a brief in
support of Karen Golinski, a federal employee who has also sued to
have her same-sex marriage recognized.