In a brief filed Friday, the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to strike down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that laws targeting gay people should face additional scrutiny by courts reviewing them, BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote that Section 3 of DOMA, which limits the definitions of “spouse” and “marriage” under federal law to heterosexual partnerships, violates the constitution. The administration argues that DOMA deserves heightened scrutiny because of the history of discrimination faced by gays and lesbians
“Section 3 of DOMA violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection,” the brief reads. “The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional.”
“To the extent sexual orientation may be considered to fall short in some dimension, the history of discrimination and the absence of relation to one’s capabilities associated with this particular classification,” argues the administration, “would uniquely qualify it for scrutiny under an approach that calls for a measure of added focus to guard against giving effect to a desire to harm an ‘unpopular group.’”
Section 3 of DOMA has already been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts on issues including bankruptcy, public employee benefits, estate taxes, and immigration.
Oral arguments begin March 27, 2013 in the case brought by Edith Windsor following the death of her spouse Thea Spyer. Having spent most of their lives together in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Windsor and Spyer were engaged to marry in 1967, and finally did so in May 2007 with a Canadian marriage license. Nevertheless, Windsor’s lawyers note that DOMA requires the government to view the couple as legal strangers.