Today, 145 House Democrats signed onto an amicus brief denouncing DOMA as unconstitutional. The amicus brief was in support of Edie Windsor, 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,” a press release from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi‘s office, explaining the amicus brief, reads. “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.”
The brief argues that Congress did not act with caution, but hastily and without due consideration of the relevant issues. Section 3 [of DOMA] 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.”
In short, the amicus brief, which garnered 13 more co-signers than a similar one filed by House Democrats in July, in the case of Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, specifically notes that the House is not of one mind on DOMA, and the signatories believe it unconstitutional and are opposed to Speaker of the House John Boehner‘s attempts t0 defend the law — already found unconstitutional by several federal court judges.
In fact, Boehner’s hand-picked attorney who is defending DOMA in court, with a budget of up to $1.5 million, has lost every single case — five now — he has tried. Yet Speaker Boehner, who, by the way, appointed National Organization For Marriage co-founder Robert P. George — tied to the flawed Regnerus anti-gay parenting “study” — to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), making George an employee of the U.S. government. Boehner also insists on defending a law that seven out of ten constitutional law professors believe is unconstitutional.
The amicus brief includes signatures from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Whip Steny Hoyer, Jerrold Nadler, James Clyburn, and John Conyers, along with members of the House LGBT Caucus: Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, and David N. Cicilline.
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