A week before the Senate begins the first step in repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, House Democrats have filed an amicus brief to show their opposition to the federal ban on gay marriage.
On Thursday, more than 130 Democratic lawmakers filed the brief in a lawsuit before the First Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. The case reached the First Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district court ruled Section 3 was unconstitutional. After the Obama administration decided that Section 3 of the law, which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional and decided to stop defending the law because of it, House Republicans decided to hire private counsel to defend the law in court – something that will cost taxpayers $1.5 million.
However, Democrats were opposed to that action and filed the brief to show that not everyone in the House of Representatives supported DOMA – 70 U.S. businesses also filed an amicus brief opposing DOMA on Thursday on the basis of the law forcing them to treat their employees differently based on their sexual orientation and thus causing them a financial burden to correct the inequity.
“[The co-signers] wish to make clear that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (“BLAG”), which has intervened in this case to defend Section 3’s constitutionality, does not speak for a unanimous House on this issue,” the Democrats’ brief reads. “While Speaker [John] Boehner has the authority to direct the defense of DOMA by virtue of the divided 3-2 vote of the BLAG, many Members believes that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution and should be struck down.”
The Democratic members who signed the brief also contended that Congress did not fully take into consideration the effects DOMA would have on families and other laws that take martial status into consideration.
“Congress passed DOMA without examining its impact on any of the thousand-plus federal laws that take martial status into account or hearing from child welfare or family law experts,” they wrote in the brief. “Nor did Congress pause to examine why the federal government traditionally has respected state marriages for purposes of federal law despite the non-trivial differences in state marriage laws over this nation’s history before rupturing this longstanding federalist practice. … [It] was the desire to disapprove and disadvantage gay and lesbian couples, which is not a legitimate federal interest. Where Congress has allocated federal burdens or benefits based on marital status, the decision to exclude an entire class of married citizens is not the rational result of impartial lawmaking.”
The brief also comes one week before the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the markup of the Respect for Marriage Act – the anti-DOMA bill that would repeal the federal ban on gay marriage law and allow the federal government to provide benefits to same-sex partners married in states that recognize marriage equality. The markup was supposed to come this week, but Senate Republicans pushed it back to Nov. 10 in order to consider additional amendments.
It also comes at a time when public acceptance of same-sex marriage has increased. According to a new Pew Research Center survey released Thursday, the percentage of people who now favor same-sex marriage has increased over the past two years. The poll now shows 46 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage with 44 percent opposed to it. That poll mirrors other polls released this year showing Americans being divided or narrowly accepting same-sex marriage.
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