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U.S. House Democrats enter fight in California case against DOMA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
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WASHINGTON — A group of 132 House Democrats — led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — filed on Tuesday a friend-of-the-court brief against the Defense of Marriage Act to assist litigation challenging the anti-gay law.

The brief was filed before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Michael Key, Washington Blade

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster filed the suit on behalf of Karen Golinski, a court employee at the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals who’s seeking partner benefits for her spouse, but was denied them because of DOMA.

In addition to Pelosi and Nadler, Democrats who signed the amicus brief against DOMA include all members of Democratic leadership — including House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — as well as Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and all four openly gay members of Congress: Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

The Obama administration stopped defending DOMA in court in February 2011. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, a House body convened by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has since taken up defense of the anti-gay law in the administration’s stead.

The 30-page brief makes the case against Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, in several ways, emphasizing that BLAG doesn’t speak for the entirety of the U.S. House. House Democrats have pledged to file a brief in each case where BLAG acts to defend DOMA.

First, the lawmakers argue DOMA warrants heightened scrutiny because Congress has a history of targeting gay and lesbian Americans with discriminatory laws — a position that is held by the Obama administration.

House Democrats then argue that DOMA is unconstitutional because Congress hastily passed it in 1996 for political reasons and because the law undercuts Congress’ interest in protecting families and respecting state sovereignty.

“Congress did not proceed “cautiously” as BLAG now suggests, … but acted hastily, and in a manner that reflects the reality that, as a historically disfavored minority, gay men and lesbians have often been targeted for harm based on stereotypes, bias, and the unfortunate desire to create partisan wedge issues for political gain,” the brief states.

Shelbi Day, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said the brief filed by House Democrats “sends a powerful message” and would boost arguments that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Continue reading at the Washington Blade

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