Oral arguments began this morning in U.S. District Court in Boston on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case is brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and is known as Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.
The lawsuit is on behalf of seven married same-sex couples and three widowers. It specifically targets Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and denies all federal rights and protections to same-sex couples. It is considered to be the first serious challenge to DOMA. GLAD is live-tweeting developments. Follow @GLADLaw or search #DOMA.
The hearing will address the central issue of the case – is DOMA constitutional? –six years after the first same-sex couples in the country started marrying in Massachusetts, the result of GLAD’s groundbreaking marriage case, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Arguing before U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro on behalf of seven married same-sex couples and three widowers will be Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director. Bonauto was the lead attorney in Goodridge.
As a result of DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996, plaintiffs in GLAD’s lawsuit have been harmed in various ways, including denial of survivor benefits on a deceased spouse’s pension; denial of health insurance coverage for a spouse on a federal family plan; denial of Social Security death and widower benefits; and the payment of extra federal income taxes due to the inability to file jointly as married. In opposing the government’s Motion to Dismiss and arguing in favor of the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, GLAD will assert that DOMA Section 3 violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection as applied to federal income taxation, Social Security benefits, and federal employee and retiree benefits.
UPDATE: Per emails and Twitter the courthouse has been evacuated: "Fire alarm interrupts @GLADlaw's #DOMA hearing...everyone waiting in the parking lot."
Watch GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto explain the suit, WHEN YOU JUMP...