More states call for ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ to be declared unconstitutional
The state of Vermont on Friday joined New York and Connecticut in asking a federal appeals court to rule that the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said Friday that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), deprives same-gender couples of federal benefits and unfairly discriminates against them.
The amicus brief was filed in the case of Windsor v. United States, a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups.
The plaintiff is 83-year-old Edie Windsor, who was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes upon the death in 2009 of her spouse Thea Spyer because of Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The couple first met in 1963, but married in 2007 in Canada after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years.
The three states filed their briefs in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and argue that states regulate marriage and family relationships and that Congress doesn’t have constitutional authority to interfere with that license at any level.
Also Friday, a group of 145 U.S. House Democrats — led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — filed an amicus brief in the same case. The 30-page brief lays out the case why DOMA should be stricken down as unconstitutional, arguing Congress passed DOMA in 1996 out of animus toward gay people.
Several federal judges have already ruled the law is unconstitutional, although federal agencies continue to enforce it.
The Obama Administration said last year it would stop defending DOMA in court.
The ACLU has asked the Supreme Court to take up the case before the Second Circuit makes its decision on the lawsuit.