While our country was celebrating liberty and revolution yesterday, District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant put out the fire on the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group by denying its motion to stay the proceedings in a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.
BLAG’s motion to halt consideration of Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, was predicated on the theory that a pending appeal in another DOMA challenge, Windsor v. United States, would make Bryant’s ruling unnecessary. But Her Honor said the plaintiffs in Pendersen would face “significant” harm if the trial were stopped:
“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].”
Pedersen involves six married same-sex couples and one widower who have been blocked from receiving federal benefits under DOMA. BLAG had tried to argue that staying a decision would “preserve judicial economy,” but Bryant explained that the court was fully briefed and had already begun drafting a decision. Rejected!
“We’re gratified that Judge Bryant affirmed [our clients'] right to a resolution of their case,” said lead attorney Mary L. Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. “As long as Jerry Passaro continues to be denied his late husband’s pension; Anne Meitzen continues to be unable to go on her wife Joanne Pedersen’s health insurance; and Lynda DeForge continues to be unable to care for her wife, Raquel Ardin, because she can’t get Family Medical Leave, this case should be moving forward. Judge Bryant came to the right conclusion.”
We hope the fact that Bryant is already penning her decision means she’s siding with the plaintiffs. Getting DOMA off the books could be a greater accomplishment than repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.