Department of Justice files request for Supreme Court to hear DOMA challenges

It's been a big week for judicial movement on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the law that prohibits federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. There are multiple challenges to DOMA in the courts, and each case has been slowly making its way through the courts for the past few years.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice aimed to speed up that process by asking the Supreme Court to hear two of the DOMA challenges - Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management/Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services. The government filed a writ of certiorari, referring to lower courts' decisions in the DOMA cases that determined that DOMA's Section 3 - which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman - is unconstitutional. The Solicitor General wrote in the petition:

Although the Executive Branch agrees with the district court's determination in this case that Section 3 is unconstitutional, we respectfully seek this Court's review so that the question may be authoritatively decided by this Court. To ensure that the Judiciary is the final arbiter of Section 3's constitutionality, the President has instructed Executive departments and agencies to continue to enforce Section 3 until there is a definitive judicial ruling that Section 3 is unconstitutional.  

Last week, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, the stand-in committee that is defending DOMA in light of President Obama's declaration that his administration would no longer defend the anti-gay law, also appealed Gill v. OPM and Massachusetts v. HHS to the Supreme Court. In the BLAG petition, Speaker of the House John Boehner requested that another case, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, be put on hold. 

Yesterday, district court judge Vanessa Bryant denied BLAG's request for the stay in Pedersen, noting that "A stay in a civil case is an extraordinary remedy," and adding that BLAG "has failed to sustain its burden to establish the need for a stay." Bryant wrote in her denial of the stay that the other DOMA cases are substantially different from Pedersen and that there is not enough justification for approving the stay.

She wrote:

The Court must also consider the potential harm to the Plaintiffs, as the opponents of this motion. The Court finds that the harm which would befall the Plaintiffs if a stay were to be entered is significant. Entering a stay in this matter would essentially deny the Plaintiffs the right to advocate for their own interests, asking them instead to 'stand aside while a litigant in another case settles the rule of law that will define the rights of both parties.' Therefore, the Court concludes that there would be no benefit gained from granting a stay in this matter, which in essence, asks the Court to abstain from resolving the pending motions so that other litigants may proceed to their exclusion.

Read all about the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act HERE.