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Murray Signs Amicus Brief to Challenge Defense of Marriage Act

Mar 01 2013

212 Members of Congress file historic amicus brief on DOMA case before U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined her colleagues in the House and the Senate in filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding legally married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. A total of 40 Senators and 172 members of the House signed onto the brief. These 212 members decided to participate as amici in this case because they want the Supreme Court to hear the full story from Congress, and to explain why they believe that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. They disagree with the arguments being made by lawyers hired to defend DOMA in court by the House Republicans following the divided 3-2 vote of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG).

"I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we fight to end this 16-year-old policy and make sure all married couples are treated equally in the eyes of the federal government," said Senator Murray. “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to consider DOMA and am hopeful that we are closing in on a time when no American, or American family, will be treated as second-class citizens.”

The amicus brief, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), makes clear that BLAG does not speak for Congress and that many members believe that Section 3 should be struck down because there simply is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to all other married couples. As the brief explains: “DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples.”

The members’ brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit’s decision. It adds the unique perspective of Members of Congress – including some who voted against DOMA and others who voted for it – about the enactment of DOMA and why Section 3 is unconstitutional. Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in nine states and the District of Columbia, and 18,000 such couples remain legally married in California. It is clear that DOMA does not rationally serve and, in fact, undermines, Congress’s legitimate interests in the welfare of American families.

As the Congressional amici point out to the court: “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 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.”

Full text of amicus brief

Lead signatories:

Nancy Pelosi
Steny H. Hoyer
James E. Clyburn
Jerrold Nadler
John Conyers, Jr.
Harry Reid
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer
Patty Murray

Dianne Feinstein
Patrick J. Leahy
Jared Polis
David N. Cicilline
Sean Patrick Maloney
Mark Pocan
Kyrsten Sinema
Mark Takano