Vermont has joined ranks with New York and Connecticut to ask the district courts to rule that the 1996 federal law that limits marriage to the union of one man and woman is unconstitutional.
How DOMA is Unfair
The Defense of Marriage Act deprives same-sex couples of over 1,000 federal benefits including federal income tax credits, employment and retirement benefits, health insurance coverage, Social Security payments, and unfairly discriminates against them.
The Federalist challenges to DOMA are that it infringes on the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants the states all the powers not specifically reserved for the federal government. It also claims that DOMA violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which limits the power of Congress to attach terms and conditions on the allocation of federal funds.
Gay marriage is legal in Vermont, New York and Connecticut, but they have filed a brief in a case brought by Edith “Edie” Windsor, a New York City lesbian married woman, who had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes on her partner’s Thea Spyer’s estate. The couple were together for forty-four years and married in Toronto.
Case in Point
Windsor sued the government in 2010. She is awaiting a response from the Supreme Court. She is continuing to defend herself in the Second Circuit of Appeals. Windsor, 83, has a heart condition. Because of the District Court’s ruling in her favor, she is entitled to an automatic stay of enforcement, but she can not yet receive a refund from the estate tax that she was forced to pay.
The federal government said last year it would stop defending DOMA. President Obama has signaled his opposition to DOMA by ordering the Justice Department to no longer defend the law in court. Obama believes the onus for changing the law falls on Congress
President Obama made same-sex marriage part of his Democratic platform. Several federal judges have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional, including Massachusetts which was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.
Another Case: Five Same-Sex Binational Couples Sue to Overturn DOMA
If you are a heterosexual married person in the U.S., you can sponsor an immigrant spouse for legal residence. Not so if you are married to immigrants of the same sex. Binational same-sex couples are at risk of either being separated by deportation or being forced to leave the U.S. in order to stay together. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, last Monday for the Eastern District of New York challenges that situation
Victoria Neilson, the legal director for Immigration Equality and a co-counsel in the case, argues that ” DOMA violates the Constitution by mandating different legal treatment for gay couples. There are married couples in the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont who can sponsor their spouses for green cards, and the only thing preventing the couples in our case from doing that is the fact that they are in lesbian and gay relationships. The Constitution does not allow that kind of discriminatory treatment between two groups that are identical. “