U.S. District Court judge finds DOMA unconstitutional in ‘Pedersen v. OPM’
July 31, 2012
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant ruled that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act's Section 3, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.
The case, initially filed in November 2010 by Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, concerns several married same-sex couples and widowers in Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire who were denied federal tax, social security, pension and family medical leave protections. The lawsuit argues that Section 3 of DOMA - the section that instates a federal definition of marriage as only a union between different-sex couples - violates the U.S. Constitution's fifth amendment, which promises equal protection under the law.
The ruling is particularly significant given that Judge Bryant was appointed to the court in 2007 by Republican President George W. Bush. She is one of many Republican judges who have found that DOMA's Section 3 violates the U.S. Constitution.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Joanne Pedersen, reflected on the ruling in a release from GLAD today:
I'm thrilled that the court ruled that our marriage commitment should be respected by the federal government just as it is in our home state of Connecticut. I loved working for the Navy for many years, and now that I am retired I now just want to care for my wife and make sure we can enjoy some happy and healthy years together. DOMA has prevented us from doing that.
Now, Pedersen v. O.P.M. will likely face an appeal from the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a GOP-led group from the House of Representatives that stepped into defend DOMA after the Obama administration announced in February 2011 that they would no longer defend the discriminatory law.
Judge Bryant's decision comes as the U.S. Supreme Court continues to receive many formal requests in a number of different cases to take a stance on whether or not DOMA is constitutional. So far, the Supreme Court has been petitioned in four cases - Gill v. O.P.M., Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Golinski v. O.P.M., and Windsor v. United States. The Supreme Court must decide which of the cases, if any, it will hear at the federal level.
The Court is currently on summer recess but will resume in September. The Court is expected to announce whether it will hear a DOMA case in late September or October.