On Thursday, lawyers with Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) presented oral arguments challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, which targets DOMA's Section Three, is the first major DOMA challenge and is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. GLAD's Mary Bonauto is the lead attorney.
"Bonauto argued in US District Court that the federal government had always let states decide who was legally married until it passed the law in question. 'Your honor, the only thing that changed here was who was going to marry,' Bonauto told US District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro. Bonauto also led the lawsuit that resulted in the landmark 2003 decision by the state Supreme Judicial Court legalizing gay marriage in Massachusetts.
Bonauto said that because of the law, the federal government treats the plaintiffs — seven gay and lesbian couples and three men whose husbands have died — as second-class citizens. They are ineligible for numerous federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive, including health insurance for spouses of federal employees, retirement and survivor benefits under the Social Security Act, and eligibility to file joint federal income tax returns."
DOJ's Scott Simpson, the author of last summer's offensive and far-reaching DOMA brief that sparked a huge outcry, is arguing the government's case. Simpson argued that it's just too much "trouble" to track all the states' same-sex marriage laws, reports The New York Times.
"The Obama administration’s Justice Department was in the position of defending the law, just as it had done in a case last year, even though Barack Obama had called during the 2008 presidential campaign for repealing it. Advocates for gay rights have said they have little hope that Mr. Obama will actively seek a repeal, given the political climate and the priority of other issues. Scott Simpson opened by
acknowledging the administration’s opposition to the act, but saying he
was still obliged to defend its constitutionality. 'This
presidential administration disagrees with DOMA as a matter of policy,'
Mr. Simpson said. 'But that does not affect its constitutionality.'
The act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Mr. Simpson, who asked the judge to dismiss the case, said Congress was initially motivated to pass the act because one state, Hawaii, was starting to consider whether to legalize same-sex marriage. And now that five states and the District of Columbia have legalized it, he said, the act spares the government the trouble of keeping track of different laws in different states. To that argument, Ms. Bonauto told the court, 'We’re not talking about mom-and-pop operations here; we’re talking about the federal government.'"
After the hearing, Bonauto talks to the press—audio is not the best—AFTER THE JUMP ...