Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet today signed on to a legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court calling the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and a denial of equal protection.
The brief, signed by 212 lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives, was filed today in the Supreme Court in the case of U.S. vs. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. Windsor is an 83-year-old widow who had to pay over $350,000 in estate taxes because of DOMA.
Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as "only a legal union between one man and one woman," excluding legally married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights.
"We must ensure that all Americans are treated equally and fairly under federal law, regardless of whom they love," Udall said. "There is no greater impediment to that ideal than the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and I am proud to stand with more than 200 of my colleagues - and members of both political parties - to call on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike it down. Our laws must respect the long-term - and legal - commitments of same-sex married couples across this country."
The amicus brief filed today makes clear that many members of Congress believe that this section should be struck down because there simply is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to all other married couples. As the brief explains, "DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples."
"The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which basically says that gay couples are not entitled to the same benefits as their straight peers, discriminates against LGBT Americans and should be overturned," Bennet said. "Loving, committed couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should enjoy their full rights under the law, just like my wife and me."
A total of 40 senators and 172 members of the House signed on to the brief.
Amicus curia (literally, "friend of the court") briefs typically provide courts with unique outside perspectives on issues.
Udall and Bennet have been strong supporters of repealing DOMA. They also championed the successful repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."