DOMA Gets Sued

doma-plaintiffs-groupThe legal team which argued for, and won, same-sex marriage will file suit today in Boston seeking some federal benefits for same-sex marriage partners. If successful, the suit would challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents federal recognition of same-sex unions. The suit is narrow in focus, leaving the whole, “states need not recognize each others marriages” portion of the bill alone and instead, focuses on federal benefits for married couples such as “Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees and retirees, and the issuance of passports”, which have a strong shot of falling under the equal protection clause.

Bay Windows reports on the efforts of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who are bringing the suit on behalf of eight Massachusetts couples and three widowers:

“GLAD believes the suit may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mark the first time the nation’s highest court heard a major DOMA challenge. GLAD filed the suit, called Gill, et al vs. Office of Personnel Management, et al, on behalf of eight couples and three widowers, all from Massachusetts. Among the plaintiffs is Dean Hara, widower of the late Congressman Gerry Studds.

Janson Wu, an attorney for GLAD working on the case, said the plaintiffs have been denied a range of important benefits under DOMA, and these benefits will be the focus of the suit. The Office of Personnel Management, which administers federal employee benefits, turned down Hara’s application to receive survivor benefits through Studds’ federal pension, including health insurance; Hara currently pays about $7000 per year out of pocket for health insurance that other surviving spouses of federal employees would receive at no cost. Hara was also denied the lump sum Social Security death benefits used by spouses to pay for funeral costs.

“You realize when you get married there are both benefits and responsibilities, and it hurts to realize that you’re not being treated fairly,” said Hara, who lives in Boston “… Our marriage is being treated differently, [and] I am being denied something that his colleagues and anyone who works for the federal government can leave on to the people that they love. I think that’s a basic human feeling, that in the passage of time, that their spouse will be alone, and they’re always concerned that that person will be taken care of, and that’s your basic family value.”