A second federal gay marriage trial is
possible in a Massachusetts lawsuit that challenges the
constitutionality of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law
that defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies
and allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed outside
Gay & Lesbian Advocates &
Defenders (GLAD), the Boston-based gay rights advocacy group at the
center of the gay marriage debate in New England, filed the lawsuit
in March on behalf of seven gay married couples and three surviving
spouses from Massachusetts.
Motions filed by both parties – the
government wants the lawsuit dismissed, while GLAD is requesting a
ruling in its favor – will be heard Thursday by a federal judge in
If the judge orders a trial, it would
be the second trial at a federal level concerning gay and lesbian
couples' right to marry.
The first such trial is expected to
wrap up in June after a federal judge heard more than three week's
worth of testimony in January. Lawyers representing a gay and a
lesbian couple argued that California's gay marriage ban, Proposition
8, violates their constitutional rights.
GLAD's case focuses narrowly on federal
benefits being denied to legally married couples in Massachusetts,
the first state to legalize the institution in 2004.
One plaintiff, Dean Hara, the widower
of former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of
Congress, has been denied the Congressman's pension and other
benefits extended to surviving spouses.
“It hurts,” said Hara, who married
Studds in May 2004. “But at the same time I realize that I, as a
man, need to stand up for what I believe in. This is a nation of
laws, and we're all supposed to have equal treatment under the law.”
While the Obama Administration says it
supports repeal of the law, the Department of Defense argues it has a
responsibility to defend the laws enacted by Congress.
Both lawsuits are likely to reach the