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Friday, September 18, 2009

DOJ seeks to dismiss Defense of Marriage Act challenge
Jaclyn Belczyk at 3:46 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday filed a motion to dismiss [text, PDF] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The suit was filed [JURIST report] in March in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website] by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website] on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] law. In its motion, the DOJ argued that it should be up to Congress to decide whether to repeal the law:


Congress is entitled under the Constitution to address issues of social reform on a piecemeal, or incremental, basis. Congress is therefore permitted to provide benefits only to those who have historically been permitted to marry, without extending the same benefits to those only recently permitted to do so. Its decision to maintain the federal status quo while preserving the ability of States to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples is rational. Congress may subsequently decide to extend federal benefits to same-sex marriages, and this Administration believes that Congress should do so. But its decision not to do so to this point is not irrational or unconstitutional.

GLAD Legal Director Gary Buseck said [press release] he remained "confident in the justice of our cause and the strength of our case."

Earlier this week, 90 members of the US House of Representatives [official website] introduced [JURIST report] a bill [HR 3567 text] to repeal DOMA. Last month, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to DOMA on jurisdictional grounds. In July, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] filed a suit challenging [JURIST report] DOMA on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to define and regulate marriage. Also in July, a Washington, DC law took effect [JURIST report] that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states or jurisdictions. Currently, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts [JURIST reports] all allow same-sex marriage. Signed by former president Bill Clinton [official profile], DOMA refuses federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples, including social security, tax laws, and immigration rights, and defines marriage as between a man and a woman.





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