From the Washington Post: "DOMA decision could expand rights for gay feds, but with questions"

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June 19, 2013

From the Washington Post:

Section 3 of DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The entire law is just over a page long. The relevant part says that for federal purposes "the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

That means federal employees in same-sex marriages are discriminated against because of the sex of their spouse. That can take a heavy and unfair financial toll on a marriage in the form of additional health-care payments and lost retirement benefits.

There’s also the damage to couples' dignity, for which there is no price tag.

The law is short on words but long on the hurt it has caused.


"For a number of important benefits, like spousal health coverage, there is no statute or regulation posing a barrier for civilian federal employees to be recognized as married by the federal government if the couple entered into a valid marriage, even if they live in a state that disrespects the marriage," said Susan Sommer, senior counsel and director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, which has fought against DOMA.

There could be some obstacles for retirement benefits based on the place of residence, she added, but "the federal government has a long history of navigating these kinds of issues. The Obama administration has made very clear its commitment to treating married same-sex couples with equality for federal government purposes."

Read the full article here.