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House Democrats intercede on behalf of N.Y. widow against DOMA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Friday, September 7, 2012
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House Democrats are yet again interceding on behalf of litigation challenging the Defense of Marriage Act — this time as one of 15 parties expected to file legal briefs before an appellate court in a case involving a lesbian New York widower.

A group of 145 House Democrats — led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) — were expected to file a friend-of-court brief on Friday in the case of Windsor V. United States, which is pending before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).Washingotn Blade photo by Michael Key.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups, is 83-year-old Edie Windsor, who was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes upon the death in 2009 of her spouse Thea Spyer because of Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The couple first met in 1963, but married in 2007 in Canada after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years.

The 30-page brief lays out the case why DOMA should be stricken down as unconstitutional, arguing Congress passed DOMA in 1996 out of animus toward gay people.

Additionally, the brief says DOMA unfairly imposes estate taxes upon married same-sex couples, saying ”it is impossible to believe that any legitimate federal interest is rationally served by depriving a widow like [Edie] Windsor of the marital deduction that allows married couples to pass property to the surviving spouse without penalty, thus maximizing the survivor’s financial well-being.”

It’s not the first time House Democrats filed a legal brief in favor of litigation challenging DOMA. Democrats also filed a legal brief before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in the consolidated case of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services as well as before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Golinksi v. United States.

However more have signed today’s brief than ever before. The new 13 signers who didn’t pen their name to the last brief are Reps. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), John Carney, Jr., (D-Del.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), Al Green (D-Texas), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-N.J.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Silvesre Reyes (D-Texas), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.).

Other signers are House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), and the 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.).

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