August 21, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) today asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision in the case of Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, in which a district court judge struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. In her powerful ruling, Judge Vanessa Bryant, a George W. Bush appointee, took apart each proffered defense of DOMA in detail, arguing, “Having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision [DOMA].”
While Judge Bryant’s decision sets up the case for a hearing in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal (where another lower court decision striking down DOMA in the case of Windsor v. USA is also on appeal), GLAD’s filing today asks the Supreme Court to take up the case directly, allowing it to skip the intermediate appellate review stage. Pedersen now joins Windsor and another district court decision from California (Golinski v. OPM) in petitioning the Supreme Court before an appeals court has ruled on the issue; another case, Massachusetts v. HHS, was argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeal, which issued an unanimous decision striking DOMA down. In their press release today, GLAD highlighted several reasons in its decision to petition the Supreme Court directly in Pedersen:
Among the arguments GLAD makes in petitioning the Supreme Court for immediate review in Pedersen are:
- the case raises a question of national importance;
- continued delay exacerbates the stigma and economic burdens on plaintiffs’ families and children;
- Congress has no legitimate interest in overriding state marriage policies where states license marriages and not the federal government;
- there is a practical need for a Supreme Court decision as there are conflicting decisions on DOMA’s constitutionality in various federal courts and additional challenges are pending;
- the Obama Administration is not defending the law in court but is still enforcing it, resulting in ever more lawsuits against DOMA; and
- Pedersen is an exceptionally good case for the Court’s review because it demonstrates DOMA’s impact on a range of important federal programs like federal income tax, Social Security, federal employee and retiree benefits, and federal statutes (e.g. the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
When the Supreme Court reconvenes in late September for its first conference following the summer recess, the Court will have a whole host of DOMA cases on its plate to consider taking up in its next term. The Supremes can take up all or none of the cases, or a select group of them. But because all of the different DOMA cases address the same central issue of discrimination while addressing it with a variety of distinct legal arguments, the inclusion of a case like Pedersen in the Supreme Court’s review makes the case against DOMA even stronger.
You can read GLAD’s full filing with the Supreme Court below, via Scribd. (H/t to Kathleen for the link.)