Defense of Marriage Act

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal law passed in 1996 that both created a federal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and expressly gave states permission to refuse to recognize marriages entered into by same-sex couples in other jurisdictions. The part of DOMA that defines marriage at the federal level – known as Section 3 – was a radical departure from 220 years of federal practice, which was to rely on each state to define marriage and to recognize any marriage legally entered into under state law as a valid marriage for federal purposes.

We are challenging Section 3 of DOMA on behalf of our client Edie Windsor in Windsor v. United States, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. 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.

What The Windsor Case Means To Me And My Family

What The Windsor Case Means To Me And My Family

By Robert H., Teen Activist Project Member, NYCLU at 12:09pm
What marriage equality has meant to me and my family has changed greatly over our lives. When my parents were born, in the mid-1950s, the idea of ever having an open, public discussion of sexual orientation seemed impossible, and marriage for gay and lesbian couples wasn't even remotely imaginable. Now, in my lifetime and theirs, my parents have gotten married, and it is entirely possible that their marriage will be recognized by our government in the same way that everyone else's is. It's both exciting and dramatic, and I never know whether I believe it will happen.
History Is On the Side of Striking Down DOMA

History Is On the Side of Striking Down DOMA

By Catherine R. Connors, Partner, Pierce Atwood LLP at 2:21pm

Of the many amici briefs filed to support marriage equality, the "Historian" brief, submitted by the American Historical Association along with 23 individual history professors, seeks to provide the proper historical context for the critical questions…

Voices Against DOMA: We've Got Friends

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…

Historic Shift in Congress against DOMA Mirrors Shift in Public Opinion in Favor of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

Historic Shift in Congress against DOMA Mirrors Shift in Public Opinion in Favor of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:24am

On Friday, 212 members of Congress, 172 representatives and 40 senators, filed an historic brief in support of Edie Windsor's challenge to the discriminatory and unconstitutional so-called Defense of Marriage Act's (DOMA) exclusion of married same-sex…

What the Supreme Court’s Decision to Hear a Challenge to DOMA Should Mean for Same-Sex Bi-National Couples

What the Supreme Court’s Decision to Hear a Challenge to DOMA Should Mean for Same-Sex Bi-National Couples

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:41pm

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Edie Windsor’s challenge to the discriminatory, so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Despite the fact that Edie and her late spouse, Thea Spyer, were together for more than four decades and…

We're Going to The Supreme Court! The Supreme Court Takes Review of DOMA and Prop 8!

We're Going to The Supreme Court! The Supreme Court Takes Review of DOMA and Prop 8!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 12:00am

Today the Prop 8 case (Perry) is being argued before the Supreme Court and tomorrow the ACLU will be there challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of Edie Windsor....

DOMA Unconstitutional Again, and Heightened Scrutiny to Boot!

DOMA Unconstitutional Again, and Heightened Scrutiny to Boot!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 12:20pm

Yesterday, in Edie Windsor’s challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA violates the Constitution. It’s the second federal appeals court to strike DOMA down, and it’s the…

Working Towards an LGBT-Inclusive Platform

Working Towards an LGBT-Inclusive Platform

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:28pm

On Thursday evening, BuzzFeed reported that the draft 2012 Democratic National Platform includes, as part of an overall endorsement of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, a call for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in Congress. …

ACLU Urges Critical LGBT and HIV/AIDS Updates to 2012 Democratic National Platform

ACLU Urges Critical LGBT and HIV/AIDS Updates to 2012 Democratic National Platform

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:20pm

The ACLU has been invited to offer our civil liberties and civil rights recommendations to the Democratic National Committee’s “platform drafting committee,” which is currently meeting in Minneapolis to begin the process of putting…

DOMA headed to the Supreme Court?

DOMA headed to the Supreme Court?

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 2:49pm

Today, we asked the United States Supreme Court to review the ACLU’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of Edie Windsor.  A federal trial court struck down DOMA last month in Edie's case, holding that it violates the federal…

Statistics image