Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in DOMA Challenge
(Washington, March 27, 2013) – The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, the case challenging Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson, Legal Director, and Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director, attended the oral arguments at Court today and issued the following statements:
"On consecutive days we have witnessed lawyers arguing passionately and effectively before the Supreme Court for equal rights and protections for same-sex couples," Davidson said. "The solicitor general explained that section three of DOMA is discrimination and it is time for the Court to recognize that this discrimination cannot be reconciled with our fundamental commitment to equal protection under the law."
"Edie Windsor had her day in court and bravely stood not only for herself, but for all lesbian and gay couples treated unequally by their government," Taylor added. "As we argued in our friend-of-the-court brief, DOMA heaps upon married same-sex couples disadvantages that defy credible connection to any legitimate governmental purpose. President Obama knows it and refuses to defend DOMA in court. Former President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, knows it. And now I believe the justices of the Supreme Court have persuasive grounds to affirm the Second Circuit's decision. Today spells doomsday for DOMA."
"We congratulate our colleagues at the ACLU and the law firm Paul Weiss on a great day at the Supreme Court."
The amicus brief that Lambda Legal filed jointly with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) argued also that, although laws such as DOMA that discriminate based on sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny – a more rigorous standard of constitutional review – DOMA does not even pass the less strict, rational basis standard. Drawing on the Supreme Court's ruling in Romer v. Evans, Lambda Legal's historic 1996 case, the brief argues that DOMA fails this less strict standard because it targets an historically disfavored group, impacts important personal interests, and represents a one-time departure from the usual process of allocating federal rights and benefits. DOMA affects more than 1,000 federal laws and regulations ranging from tax policy, federal employee benefits, rights under private pension plans and conflict-of-interest rules.
Windsor is one of multiple recent cases where federal courts have found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Those cases include Lambda Legal's Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Ninth Circuit and GLAD's Gill et. al. v. Office of Personnel Management in the First Circuit and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management in the Second Circuit. U.S. v. Windsor is also out of the Second Circuit and was brought by the ACLU.
In addition to the Lambda Legal/GLAD brief, dozens of other friend-of-the-court briefs were filed urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Windsor, including one joined by 278 businesses and municipalities.
Information about Golinski v. OPM, Lambda Legal's DOMA challenge, is available here.