Senator William "Mo" Cowan today pledged his commitment to marriage equality by signing onto an amicus brief calling for the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The brief, which was filed by Senate and House Democrats and signed by a total of 212 members of Congress, explains that "DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples."
"We all should have the opportunity to marry who we love, the assurance that our marriage is equally recognized under the law and the right to enjoy the protections that come with it. Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act places discriminatory and unconstitutional burdens on loving and committed gay and lesbian couples," said Senator William "Mo" Cowan. "In Massachusetts, we have been leaders in this fight for marriage equality. The Supreme Court has before it yet another opportunity to further the cause of civil rights, and I'm honored to add my voice to those fighting for human dignity."
An attorney at the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Mary L. Bonauto, who won the case bringing marriage to Massachusetts, as well as the first appellate ruling challenging DOMA last May, said, "This brief powerfully illustrates that there is no legitimate federal policy served by DOMA from those who know those policies best -- the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. It is critical that so many representatives and senators are speaking out against DOMA's unjust discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans who have committed themselves to marriage, pay into the same system, and yet are deprived of the safety nets in place to help other families." GLAD and Bonauto were also responsible for coordinating the amicus filings in this case.
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. A total of 40 Senators and 172 members of the House signed onto the brief.
The brief is in reference to a case pending before the Supreme Court, Windsor v. United States, which came out of the Second Circuit. In Edith "Edie" Windsor's case, the federal government taxed Edie more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009. The couple first met in 1965 and married in 2007, after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years. Yet, when Thea died, the federal government treated them as complete strangers because of DOMA, significantly reducing Edie's inheritance by denying her protections from the estate tax that other married couples receive. Edie, who is now 83 years old, challenged DOMA as a violation of equal protection. The federal district court in New York City and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee.
The members' brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit's decision.