The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday filed legal briefs with the Supreme Court asking justices to take up two additional cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act upon their return from summer recess.
The Obama administration asked the high court to hear Windsor v. United States, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, which was filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. Both cases are currently pending before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
News of the Justice Department filing the two separate legal briefs was first reported by Reuters. Read the petition in the Pedersen brief here and the petition in the Windsor brief here.
The Justice Department asks the Supreme Court to take up the cases as sort of a backup plan in case justices decline to hear two other DOMA cases they have been asked to review: the consolidated case of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services and Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management.
“The Court should hold this petition pending its consideration and disposition of the petitions in Massachusetts and Golinski,” the Pedersen petition states. “Should the Court grant review in either of those cases, it need not grant review in this case. If the Court concludes that neither Massachusetts nor Golinski provides an appropriate vehicle for resolving the question presented, it should grant this petition to ensure a timely and definitive ruling on Section 3’s constitutionality.”
The Justice Department maintains the order in which the Supreme Court should consider the cases is Massachusetts and Golinski, then Pedersen, then the Windsor case.
According to the Justice Department, the question of whether the Supreme Court can take up the latter two cases rests on whether plaintiffs “have appellate standing to seek certiorari before judgment.” But the Justice Department says justices must resolve the additional question in the Windsor case of whether New York law recognized the Canadian marriage of the plaintiff, New York lesbian Edith Windsor, at the time of her spouse’s death.
Among the petition’s signers are U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery, who’s gay and has been litigating against DOMA on behalf of the Obama administration in court.
Both petitions call on the Supreme Court to answer a question that was previously asked by other parties calling on the Supreme Court to review the anti-gay law: Does Section 3 of DOMA violate the Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their state?
The request from the Justice Department follows earlier requests from the Supreme Court to consider these cases from ACLU and GLAD in the wake of district court rulings in favor of plaintiffs against DOMA in the lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones ruled against DOMA in the Windsor case in June. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant ruled against the anti-gay law in the Pedersen case in July. Following those rulings, ACLU and GLAD both asked the Supreme Court to take their respective cases in lieu of waiting for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to make a decision.