Pelosi, Nadler lead the way as 143 House Democrats file new Amicus Brief against DOMAOnline Only, Top Highlights Saturday, September 8th, 2012
WASHINGTON – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and 143 other House Democrats have filed an Amicus Brief in the case of Edith Schlain Windsor v. United States of America.
Edith “Edie” Windsor, 83, a constituent of Rep. Nadler’s in New York City, challenged DOMA in court after the federal government taxed her more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009. Edie and Thea first met in 1963 and married in 2007 after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years. Yet, when Thea died, the federal government treated them as complete strangers because of DOMA, significantly reducing Edie’s inheritance by depriving her of the marital deduction that otherwise allows a married couple to pass property to the surviving spouse without tax penalty.
This landmark case, which has reached the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit following a U.S. District Court ruling that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Last year, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder reached the same conclusion and announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the law in certain court cases. By a divided 3-2 vote of the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) with Pelosi and Hoyer strongly objecting, Speaker John Boehner hired outside lawyers to defend DOMA in court at considerable taxpayer expense.
The Democratic Members’ brief provides a comprehensive explanation of how Section 3 of DOMA undermines Congress’s legitimate interests. It rebuts BLAG‘s argument that Section 3 is a routine and cautious definitional exercise that warrants absolute deference from the courts. The brief argues that Congress did not act with caution, but hastily and without due consideration of the relevant issues. Section 3 cannot be viewed as a benign exercise of Congressional authority, as a clear aim and effect of this law was to disapprove and disadvantage lesbians and gay men. As a result, and unlike most Acts of Congress, DOMA cannot be viewed as the rational result of impartial lawmaking and should be treated with judicial skepticism.
The brief makes it clear that the House is not united on DOMA‘s validity, that the BLAG lawyers do not speak for the entire institution, and that there is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to couples who are married under state law. Section 3 does not affect married heterosexual couples and their children, who are recognized regardless of DOMA. And this law affirmatively harms married gay and lesbian couples and their children.
As the House amici point out to the court, “it is impossible to believe that any legitimate federal interest is rationally served by depriving a widow like [Edie] Windsor of the marital deduction that allows married couples to pass property to the surviving spouse without penalty, thus maximizing the survivor’s financial well-being.”
Pelosi, Nadler and the main sponsors of the brief intend to participate in each of the cases where the BLAG has intervened as each case reaches the relevant federal court of appeals.
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