Two-hundred-and-twelve members of Congress have signed on to a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal agencies as a heterosexual union, thereby excluding gay couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities, rights and benefits.

A total of 172 House members and 40 senators signed on to the brief filed in the case Windsor v. United States.

Edith “Edie” Windsor, the lesbian widow at the center of the case, sued the federal government after she received an estate bill of more than $360,000 resulting from the death of her wife Thea Spyer.

The women shared their lives for 44 years and married in Toronto, Canada in 2007. In 2009, New York began recognizing the marriages of gay couples, although the state did not legalize such unions until 2011. Spyer died in 2009.

“The goal of maximizing the financial well-being and independence of widows is not furthered by depriving Edie Windsor and others like her of the estate-tax exemption that other married Americans receive,” the brief argues. “The policy of encouraging employers to provide family health benefits is not served either by denying to employers the tax deduction for providing those benefits to married gay and lesbian couples or by refusing to cover spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees. Our national security is undermined by denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers, especially during periods of armed conflict. Our veterans are dishonored when we deny them the right to have their spouses buried alongside them in our national cemeteries.”

(Read the full brief.)

Lead signatories include: Nancy Pelosi, Steny H. Hoyer, James E. Clyburn, Jerrold Nadler, John Conyers, Jr., Harry Reid, Richard J. Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick J. Leahy, Charles E. Schumer, Patty Murray, Jared Polis, David N. Cicilline, Sean Patrick Maloney, Mark Pocan, Kyrsten Sinema, Mark Takano.