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GLAD and the ACLU Challenge DOMA in Court

The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed two lawsuits today challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The plaintiffs in both cases claim to have been denied federal programs and benefits available to heterosexual married couples. In Pedersen et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, five married same-sex couples from Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire are suing for benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples, including Social Security survivors’ payments, the right to file taxes jointly and guaranteed leave from work to care for a sick spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In the second case, Windsor v. USA, Windsor alleges to have been denied the estate tax deduction available to surviving spouses. Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at GLAD said in a press release, “DOMA must fall. In 1996, when Congress passed DOMA, the stated goal was to harm gay people and same-sex families with this law, and sadly, it has succeeded. Married gay and lesbian couples fall through the federal safety nets that exist for other married people.” Passed in 1996, DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman and denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Massachusetts was the first state to challenge the constitutionality of DOMA in a lawsuit, filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley in July 2009. The second suit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, was filed on behalf of seven gay and lesbian married couples and three widowers by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. In that case, federal judge Joseph Tauro agreed that DOMA violated the equal protection clause.

Sources:

GLAD Press Release 11/8/10; ACLU Press Release 11/8/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 7/9/10, 7/10/10

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