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Norton Says Supreme Court Ruling on DOMA is an Unequivocal Victory with Far Reaching Implications


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a member of the Supreme Court bar and a tenured Georgetown University law professor, issued the following statement on today's Supreme Court ruling in Windsor v. United States, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

"Today's unequivocal same-sex marriage victory, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, will give thousands of married same-sex couples in nine states and the District of Columbia access to almost 1,000 valuable federal benefits that they have been denied. Moreover, the Court's ruling that DOMA was rooted in animus against gays by Congress has far reaching implications for states and local entities beyond the overturning of DOMA. Those of us who were in the Congress when DOMA was passed in 1996 heard in real time the prejudice against the LGBT community in speeches on the House floor and saw it in official documents that the Court could not ignore in reaching today's decision. At the time, it was ironic to see the states' rights Republicans use federal power to deny gay people rights conferred upon them by state law. Today's decision, based on equal protection and due process, signals to lawmakers that the laws they enact concerning gay people will be measured against these core constitutional standards of equal protection and due process, as with other groups.

"Gay D.C. residents and others who were married here may well benefit disproportionately from today's decision, in part because of the large number of our residents who are federal employees. For example, before today's decision, if one gay spouse worked for the federal government, his or her spouse could not be added to a federal health insurance plan.

"Unfortunately, however, today's decision leaves the country with two classes of relevant same-sex federal employees: those who have been legally married and those who are domestic partners recognized to receive state benefits. I hope that the administration will investigate possible administrative action to allow domestic partners appropriate recognition.

"As many of us expected, the Court avoided ruling on the California Proposition 8 case, but in my view, California can and should resume marrying same-sex couples."

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