Blog of Rights

Voices Against DOMA: We've Got Friends

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 2:38pm

We're almost there – next week, on March 27, the Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Edie Windsor's case. Essentially DOMA requires the federal government to treat legally married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples. In June, the Court will rule on whether DOMA violates equal protection by treating married gay couples as unmarried in over 1,100 federal programs.

We are approaching a watershed moment in the marriage movement. And as we prepare for next week's argument, we know that we are not alone. The Supreme Court has been inundated with legal briefs from "friends of the court" supporting the ACLU's argument that DOMA is unconstitutional.  Edie has now been joined by 46 other briefs filed by one of the most extraordinary collections of "friends of the court" ever assembled.

Highlights of the people and organizations that have weighed in on the side of fairness include:

  • Military leaders and families – Retired generals and officers explained how DOMA requires the armed forces to treat married gay service members differently from married straight service members, and how harmful that is to the military's culture of fairness.
  • Religious leaders – Leaders of a range of religious faiths – from Episcopalians to Conservative Jews – wrote about their acceptance of marriage for same-sex couples, to rebut the common assumption that people of faith do not support the freedom to marry.
  • Businesses – 278 companies, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Viacom, Walt Disney Co., Alcoa, and Marriott Int'l, wrote about how DOMA is bad for business.
  • Members of Congress – 40 Senators and 172 Representatives signed a brief arguing that DOMA violates the Constitution.
  • Former Senators who voted for DOMA – These Senators wrote about their own journey from supporting DOMA to opposing it, including the realization that all of the supposed justifications for DOMA proved, with the benefit of experience, to be meritless.
  • Psychologists and Sociologists – The American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association each submitted briefs making clear that kids raised by gay parents do just as well as kids raised by straight parents, rebutting one of the primary arguments made by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives, which is defending DOMA in court.
  • Political Scientists – The American Political Science Association filed a brief addressing the inability of lesbians and gay men to protect themselves in the normal political process (addressing one of the heightened scrutiny factors).
  • Historians – The Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association wrote a detailed summary of the history of discrimination against lesbians and gay men (another one of the heightened scrutiny factors).
  • Former Cabinet Secretaries – A wide range of former Executive branch officials wrote a brief explaining that DOMA was not necessary to ensure uniformity of federal benefits from state to state, since federal programs have long deferred to states' determinations of whether a person is married.

I could go on (there are so many briefs!) but you get the picture.

As exciting as it is to have so many people and groups sign on "officially" to the case, we also recognize that there are families around the country hurt by DOMA who have a real stake in the outcome of this case.

This week we want to shine a spotlight on just a handful of the many voices, including our amici and others, who can explain the range of ways that DOMA not only impacts same-sex couples, but the negative impact it has on children, businesses, and Americans from all walks of life.

Follow the Blog of Rights all week to hear these stories and then next week we're headed to court!

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