Appeals Court Hears Case for Gay Marriage; Equal Protection under the Law Cited for Striking Down Federal Ban
Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A three-judge federal appellate court heard arguments Wednesday on whether a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman - thus denies marital benefits to gay couples married under state law - is constitutional.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) amounts to across-the-board disrespect of gay couples who were married under Massachusetts law, Mary L. Bonauto, lead attorney for the 17 gay plaintiffs, told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
The promise of equal protection is that likes are to be treated alike, said Ms. Bonauto, who directs the civil rights project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
But DOMA treats married same-sex couples differently from all other married persons, making gay people and our marriages unequal to all others, she said.
The case, Gill et al., v. Office of Personnel Management, is a consolidation of three similar cases, and is named for postal worker Nancy Gill. It argues that DOMA illegally prevents gay spouses from accessing federal marital benefits that are available to heterosexual spouses. These include Social Security survivor benefits, eligibility to be on a spouse's federal health insurance plan, and the ability to file federal taxes as a married couple.
One of the plaintiffs is Dean Hara, who married former Rep. Gerry Studds, Massachusetts Democrat. Mr. Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress, died in 2006, and Mr. Hara is denied the pension given to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement defended DOMA on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives. …