“The stories of people in long-term relationships who are denied the right to act on their partners’ final requests are heartbreaking,” Lewis said in a press statement today. “If a state provides the right for gay and lesbian citizens to marry, the federal government should not bar their ability to receive any of the rights and privileges given to any other married citizen.
“To do so seems discriminatory on its face. We must get to the place in our society where we see beyond our own biases and accept each other as one human family,” Lewis said.
Lewis and his fellow briefers made clear they will file in any court Boehner intervenes in to defend DOMA in order to correct any misapprehension that the Speaker speaks for the entire House in this case:
Some 110 members of Congress have submitted an amicus brief “to indicate that the Boehner suit does not represent the views of the entire House, and that the legislative body is in fact split on this issue,” the press release from Lewis states.
… and the walls come tumbling down: The Department of Justice yesterday asked a federal District Court to grant Edith Windsor her estate tax refund because the section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that required her to pay $351,000 on her deceased same-sex spouse’s estate is unconstitutional.
Back on July 1, the Department of Justice took a big step in defining what its Feb. 23 decision that the federal definition of marriage found in Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional would look like. In Karen Golinski’s case seeking equal health benefits for her wife, DOJ argued that the case should not be tossed out of court and should be allowed to proceed.
On Aug. 19, DOJ went a step further, telling a judge in the Southern District of New York that Edith Windsor — who is seeking a refund of the more than $350,000 estate tax bill that she had to pay because her marriage to her deceased wife, Thea Spyer, was not recognized by the federal government — should be granted that refund because DOMA’s federal definition of marriage is unconstitutional.
This is the first affirmation by the federal Department of Justice that a case brought against DOMA should succeed because Section 3 is unconstitutional.
In concluding its brief filed on Friday in Windsor’s case, DOJ — led by Assistant Attorney General Tony West and signed by DOJ senior trial counsel Jean Lin — argues, “Section 3 of DOMA fails heightened scrutiny, and this Court should deny the motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s constitutional claim and grant Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.”
This is a very exciting step forward for married same-sex couples everywhere who seek to be treated the same as other married couples by our federal government.
In many of the federal appellate circuits across the country, the courts have ruled at some point on the level of scrutiny to be applied to classifications based on sexual orientation. In Friday’s filing, however, DOJ notes — as Holder had noted on Feb. 23 — “The Second Circuit has not ruled on the appropriate level of scrutiny for sexual orientation classifications.” The Second Circuit includes New York, where Windsor filed her case, and Connecticut, where the GLAD Pedersen case was filed.
DOJ’s Aug. 19 brief then lays out its case for heightened scrutiny to apply to sexual orientation classifications, arguing that “careful consideration of the factors the Supreme Court has identified as relevant to the inquiry demonstrates that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny.”
Of course, John Boehner’s Bi-Partisan Legal Advisory Group’s (BLAG) objections still stand in the way of this case:
In addition to DOJ’s filing, Windsor’s lawyers also filed a response to BLAG, arguing in part that DOMA should be found unconstitutional — even should the court decide that rational basis applies.
The court had set a timeline earlier this year for exchange of evidence among the parties and for the briefing that took another step forward on Friday. BLAG’s reply is due by Sept. 2.
The Obama Administration has denied the request of a married couple in San Francisco, ordering the expulsion of one spouse who is the primary caregiver of his legally married husband with AIDS.
Team Obama is incapable of valuing our actual relationships, while making pretty speeches about DOMA’s unconstitutionality.
Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk’s application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples.
Mr Wells states his case plainly:
“I’m married just like any other married person in this country,” Wells said. “At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of Homeland Security, stated they do not find the relationship to be “petitionable:” Read the rest of this entry →
Today at the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the odious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allow the federal government to recognize state marriages between same-sex partners, Senator Al Franken queried witness Thomas Minnery, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Focus on the Family the definition of “nuclear family.”
In exposing Mr Minnery’s basic error in understanding the definition of “nuclear family” in the HHS study Minnery cited, Senator Franken made clear that such a fundamental mistake in reading the report made all of Minnery’s testimony suspect and unworthy of consideration by the committee.
Franken: Mr Minnery, on page eight of your written testimony, you write quote “Children living with their own married, adoptive or biological mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, were less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and almost never live in poverty compared to children in any other family form.
Franken: You cite a Department of Health and Human Services Study, that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked this study out. [laughter] And I would like to enter it into the record, if I may. [so ordered] And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says.
Franken: It says that NUCLEAR FAMILIES, not “opposite sex married families” are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has biological or adoptive children would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?
Minnery: I would think that the study, when it refers to a NUCLEAR FAMILY, refers to a study headed by a husband and a wife.
Franken: It doesn’t. [laughter] The study defines a nuclear family as “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.”
Franken: And I frankly don’t know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies this way.
After yesterday’s profile of Ron Wallen, it occurred to me you’d like to meet another widower drastically affected by the Defense of Marriage Act. Private employers’ — and federal government agencies’ — human resources policies use their pension plans to enshrine DOMA-based discrimination against legally married couples and surviving spouses. This discrimination hugely affects survivors’ quality of life, in a way that simply does not happen to opposite-sex couples.
Meet Andrew Sorbo, with his partner for 30 years and married for only four short months.
Colin Atterbury and Andrew Sorbo were married by two minister friends at their home in Cheshire, Connecticut, on Jan. 14, 2009. There was just one other guest, Andrew and Colin’s oldest friend Francis O’Connor, who served as ring bearer. But while weddings herald the start of a long life together for most couples, their intimate ceremony was, sadly, the final chapter of Colin’s and Andrew’s 30-year committed relationship. Colin, 66, was gravely ill with pancreatic cancer; he passed away just four months after the wedding.
The couple spent some of that time organizing their finances so Andrew wouldn’t be left in the cold, because he wasn’t eligible to collect the widows’ portion of Colin’s VA pension.
Because DOMA would prevent Andrew from receiving Colin’s federal pension and lifetime spousal health insurance coverage, they had begun saving and investing what they could. It was a wise move: after Colin’s death, DOMA effectively reduced Andrew’s monthly income by 80 percent. The $8000 he pays annually for health insurance represents a third of his $24,000 annual pension.
Andrew is grateful that Colin’s higher income allowed them to save and plan accordingly. “If he were a teacher like me, I would be in real trouble, because I basically don’t get anything from my years teaching in the Catholic school, and I only get a small pension from my eighteen years in the public schools. If I were a woman I would inherit part of his $80,000- plus annual pension. There would be no issue.”
Much is being made about the prominent voices who will testify at Senator Leahy’s DOMA hearing next Wednesday, but I wanted to highlight the story of one person directly affected by DOMA who will tell his story to Senators next week. Legally married in California, testimony will be heard from:
Ron Wallen, an Indio, Calif. resident, who married Tom Carrollo in 2008
after being together for 55 years. In March, Carrollo lost his battle to
cancer. After Carrollo’s death, Wallen’s income was compromised because DOMA prohibits him from receiving his spouse’s Social Security payment. Wallen would have been able to receive these payments had he been in an
opposite-sex marriage. According to the hearing notice, Wallen is unable to
make payments on his family home and is faced with selling the residence,
after just losing his spouse.
But it’s Ron Wallen’s story that needs to be heard. Because it’s the real story of the pain, anguish and theft imposed by DOMA. It’s Ron Wallen who is actually affected by DOMA. It’s Ron Wallen who is losing his home. It’s Ron Wallen who is being hurt by the Social Security Administration’s DOMA restrictions. Here is Ron and Tom’s story.
When former Solicitor General Paul Clement’s firm, King & Spalding, was chosen by Speaker of the House John Boehner to represent the interests of those who want the Defense of Marriage Act defended in federal court, after President Obama announced his Administration would no longer defend DOMA, there was a quick (and now successful) grassroots backlash against the firm.
The law firm King & Spalding broke with one of its partners, Paul Clement, on Monday over Clement’s work defending an anti-gay-marriage law.
Clement said he was resigning from his firm, King & Spalding, shortly after it said it had moved to withdraw as counsel in the matter.
Clement said he was not resigning because of any strongly held views over the statute, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
“Instead, I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”
This is a significant victory for LGBT groups that organized to ostracize King & Spalding from civilized company and discourse for accepting a case they did not have to undertake.
The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said on April 18 the firm “should be ashamed of associating themselves with an effort to deny rights of their fellow citizens.”
HRC had begun efforts to request law schools deny King & Spalding recruiting opportunities if they specifically forbade enterprises that violated their own anti-discrimination policies. Additionally, organizations such as GetEQUAL were getting up public onsite demonstrations against the firm.
Via email, Richard Socarides, of Equality Matters and formerly of the Clinton White House, issued this statement:
“We commend the partners of King & Spalding for rightly recognizing that their participation in furthering discrimination against gay Americans was unacceptable. All Americans deserve access to an attorney, but attorneys need to be held accountable for the clients they voluntarily decide to represent.
Furthermore, Speaker Boehner has an army of in-house legal talent at the House of Representatives who could ably represent his position in court. If he is serious about cutting the deficit he needs to look to his in-house counsel to represent him in these proceedings, instead of spending taxpayer dollars for a service already provided to his office.”
Full statement of Robert D Hayes Jr, chairman of King & Spalding:
“Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal.
“In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.”
Paul Clement has joined the boutique law firm of PATRIOT Act author Viet Dinh, Bancroft PLLC. The former Bush official called hiring Clement, in a statement to TPM, a ‘no-brainer:’
In an email to TPM, Bancroft PLLC founder Viet Dinh — the former Bush-era Justice Department official primarily responsible for authoring the PATRIOT Act — said that signing Clement was “a no brainer.”
“Paul wins the biggest cases and Bancroft solves the most complex problems,” Viet Dinh said in the email. “Paul brings to Bancroft an unparalleled record of success, integrity and — obviously — demonstrated commitment to the interests of his clients. We cannot be more proud of our new partner.”
Isn’t it great to see the G W Bush band getting back together, to defend discrimination against same-sex loving couples?
No, we won't support DOMA; yes, we're still bigots. (photo: quinn.anya via Flickr)
Despite today’s remarkable about-face on defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court (explained here and here and here and here) the White House immediately made sure Americans are not misinformed about the President’s continued opposition to marriage equality. In Barack Obama’s personal opinion, same-sex unions are not to be blessed with equal state sanction:
Does this mean the president now favors gay marriage? At today’s press availiability, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he doesn’t:
“I would refer you to just to his fairly recent statements on that. He is grappling with the issue. But he — again, I want to make the distinction between his personal views, which he has discussed, and the legal decision that was made today.”
Obama recently said his position on the issue is “evolving,” so Carney’s quote appears to mean that it still is in that mode.
So, while his Attorney General has been directed to no longer act contra the interests of same-sex couples seeking equality, do not fear, Bigot-Americans: the President is still one of you.
The Justice Department announced today that it will appeal the case of Gill v Personnel Management, in which a federal district court had ruled in favor of seven same-sex married couples and three widowed persons, including the widower of a Congressman, that they were entitled to federal benefits due married people. The lower court had found the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and Obama’s Justice Department in now appealing that ruling.
Kind of feels like fierce bigotry. And just wait, I suspect that any moment now we’re going to learn that the Obama administration has filed a motion to stop a federal judge’s order that basically eliminated DADT a few hours ago.
But remember, the Human Rights Campaign says we owe this President our gratitude.
Today, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, GLAD’s challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case was heard in May 2010 by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro, who issued a decision finding DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional on July 8, 2010.
“We fully expected an appeal and are more than ready to meet it head on,” says Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director. “DOMA brings harm to families like our plaintiffs every day, denying married couples and their children basic protections like health insurance, pensions, and Social Security benefits. We are confident in the strength of our case.”
The case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The next step will be for the government to file its brief to that court arguing that Judge Tauro’s ruling was wrong. GLAD will then file its brief in opposition to the government, and finally the government will file a reply brief. At that point, the appeal will be scheduled for oral argument. Briefing could be concluded by the spring of 2011 with oral argument to follow by the fall of 2011.
Now we await the Fierce Advocacy of the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense appealing Judge Virginia Phillips’ injunction ordering the military to stop enforcing DADT. This could be a red-letter day for LGBT supporters of the president, as his administration shows its real colors in light of its soaring rhetoric.
Please watch this video of LGBT widows and widowers deprived of Social Security benefits because the federal government is prohibited by the Defense of Marriage Act from recognizing their decades-long relationships. Would a civilized society behave this way?
Join Rock for Equality on FaceBook to protect ALL our senior citizens from discrimination. Learn about or organize actions in your area to end this discrimination against LGBT seniors.
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