DOMA fight continuesLegalese Thursday, April 5th, 2012
With all this talk about Proposition 8 and constitutionality over the past year, we can’t lose sight of the sibling issue calling for the repeal of federal laws that infringe on the rights of LGBT persons on the national stage. There are more than 1,000 statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining federal benefits, rights and privileges. These rights and responsibilities apply to only male-female couples, defining marriage as between only a man and a woman. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) codified this unequal treatment into law. Accordingly, and under DOMA, thousands of same-sex couples are denied the same federal benefits, rights and privileges that opposite-sex couples are afforded every day.
Some of those benefits, rights and privileges are:
Same-sex couples are denied federal tax benefits, such as joint filing and tax free transfer of property between spouses, which translates to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Immigration benefits: Same-sex couples do not enjoy qualification for various visas and clearances for citizenship, unlike heterosexual couples.
The good news is that several groups are working toward doing away with these ugly inequities under the law. While California’s focus has been on the repeal of Proposition 8 and the important court decisions related to the challenge, the dance for LGBT rights on the national scale continues.
A major lawsuit against DOMA was back in Court this week at the federal appeals level. The case is a consolidation of three cases but is generally referred to as Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. This litigation went straight for the jugular and has challenged DOMA’s definition of the word ‘marriage’ as meaning only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ referring only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. In that case, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts won a ruling in the federal district court on the litigation in July 2010. At that time, they were opposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). But in February 2011, the DOJ announced it would no longer argue that DOMA is constitutional.
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