Groups file appeals court briefs challenging Defense of Marriage Act

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Edith Windsor. - PHOTO: File

More than a dozen groups on Sept. 7 filed friend-of-the-court briefs challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in a New York widow's case that’s on track for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The amicus briefs were filed by religious groups, civil rights groups, the city of New York and three states on behalf of Edith “Edie” Windsor’s constitutional challenge to the law enacted in 1996. DOMA, in part, bars the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, resulting in the denial two gays of more than 1,000 federal benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage.

After the death of her wife, Windsor was forced to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes that she would not have had to pay had she been married to a man instead of a woman.

Windsor sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage with the help of a legal team from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; the American Civil Liberties Union; the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

In June, a federal district judge in New York ruled in Windosr's favor, finding that section three of DOMA does “not pass constitutional muster.”

The briefs filed on Sept. 7 were placed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which will hear arguments in the case on Sept. 27.

“The number and scope of the parties supporting Edie’s case illustrate the breadth of the harms that DOMA inflicts on married same-sex couples,” stated James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “It is time for the courts to bring an end to this discriminatory law once and for all.”

Friends of the court include the city of New York; the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont; 145 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, spearheaded by House Judiciary Committee members Jerrold Nadler and John Conyers, Jr., along with Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, David N. Cicilline and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Steny H. Hoyer and James E. Clyburn; the Partnership for New York City, a group of CEOs from New York City’s leading businesses; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; as well as bar associations, labor unions and civil rights, religious, cultural and LGBT organizations.