House Republicans move to dismiss Aranas v. Napolitano, challenging Section 3 of DOMA as applied to immigration
September 24, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
The Justice Department recently filed its opposition to class certification and to a preliminary injunction barring deportation in Aranas v. Napolitano, a class-action challenge to the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as it applies to immigration. There has been a dispute in the case over whether the Justice Department’s opposition is sufficient since it ultimately agrees with the constitutional challenge.
Now, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), who is seeking to intervene in the case on behalf of House Republicans, has filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice. If granted, this would mean the case is dismissed on the merits of the claim and the plaintiff can’t bring the same claim. This is different from a motion to dismiss in that BLAG is not asking the court to dismiss the case because of procedural defects or lack of jurisdiction, but rather based on the merits of the claim.
In its memo in support of the motion, BLAG writes that plaintiffs lack subject matter jurisdiction and fail to state a claim. There is an independent immigration statute that contains a definition of marriage that is not being challenged by the plaintiffs, and, BLAG argues, “Plaintiffs’ claims fail before ever reaching the statute that they do challenge, DOMA Section 3.” And BLAG suggests plaintiffs fail to state a proper claim because, “controlling Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit authority squarely foreclose that claim.” For this, they cite a 1972, one-sentence summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, a Supreme Court case, as well as two Ninth Circuit precedents, High Tech Gays v. DISCO, holding that classifications based on sexual orientation should be reviewed under rational basis, the most lenient form of judicial review under equal protection principles, and Adams v. Howerton, holding that the definition of marriage as applied to immigration does not violate equal protection principles. (There is a legal dispute over reliance on these precedents, as they are all based on the holding in the Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick, which is now overruled.)
Plaintiffs are asking the court for a preliminary injunction barring deportation among other things, and BLAG recently requested to file a larger brief to respond to the motion. BLAG’s brief here is also in opposition to that motion.
BLAG argues, as the Justice Department did, that, “on a nationwide basis, completely suspend the operation of DOMA Section 3 in the immigration context (as well as the operation of the immigration laws themselves as construed by the Ninth Circuit in Adams), and substantially impair the Executive Branch’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.” They argue that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional, does not violate equal protection principles, and does not implicate a ‘suspect class’ – a classification of people that is considered ‘suspect’ because it can be inferred the classification was made out of a desire to harm or discriminate against the group – so the law should be reviewed under rational basis review. They suggest there are several rational reasons for the legislative classification made in Section 3 of DOMA. (It is the same argument made throughout this litigation: child-rearing, preserving the public fisc, having a uniform definition of marriage, caution, encouraging responsible procreation, and ensuring children are raised by a mother and a father. Since these reasons exist, BLAG says Section 3 was a rational choice and should be upheld, as acts of Congress are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality.
h/t Kathleen for these filings
BLAG’s motion to dismiss with prejudice:8:12-cv-01137 #36
Memo in support:8:12-cv-01137 #37