Defense Of Marriage Act Challenged By States
DOMA, which is a federal law, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The three states made the case in court that the federal government must recognize same-sex couples married legally under state law.
"Gays are not entitled to certain things," said Robin Tyler, a plaintiff in a similar lawsuit in California challenging the ban on same-sex marriage. "When a partner dies and the federal government does not recognize a marriage, it costs a lot of money and many of them go into poverty."
The most recent controversy surrounding DOMA began when New York resident Edie Windsor’s partner died. The federal government then demanded that Windsor pay $350,000 in estate taxes.
According to NPR, if Windsor had been married to a man, her partner’s assets would have been transferred to her under marital tax deduction. By charging her estate taxes, the federal government essentially reversed Windsor’s marriage.
Windsor's case is currently pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.
"These married couples - our friends and neighbors in Vermont - have every right to fair and equal treatment by the federal government," Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said in a statement. "Instead, they are denied Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, and health and retirement benefits."
Recently, judges have stricken down parts of DOMA.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court in Boston called it discriminatory in regards to partner benefits because it "fails the test" when it comes to "disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns."
However, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the court did not rule whether gay marriages are legal or reciprocal in states that have laws against them.
"They only wanted to go after one part of DOMA because there are not enough states that have legalized gay marriage," Tyler said. "What they should be going after is a civil rights amendment."
In 2011 the Obama administration said it would stop defending DOMA. Speaker John Boehner has since taken over defending the legislation.
"We are behind the rest of the world when it comes to gay rights," Tyler said. "We need to elect a president who supports us."
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in the three states that filed the amicus brief, as well as New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
In their brief, the three states said that the "only coherent aim served by DOMA is to codify animus towards same-sex couples and disapproval for States that sanction same-sex marriage."
In the fall, Maryland and Washington state will have a vote on whether or not gay marriage should be legalized. Maine will also go to the polls on this issue after a referendum overturned a gay marriage law in the state three years ago.
Reach Staff Reporter Steven Covelman here.