House Republicans Ready To Spend $3 Million of OUR Tax Dollars On Legal Defense of DOMA

DOMAIf you haven’t heard about this bit of continued insanity, read on.

When the Obama administration instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA in court any longer because they found the law to be unconstitutional, it didn’t stop the House Republicans from mounting their own defense in the Spring of 2011.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders hired attorneys at the law firm Bancroft LLC to represent the House in court cases involving the federal ban on gay marriage.  It wasn’t their own money the Republicans put up for the legal battle, it was all funded with taxpayer dollars!  Basically, you and I are paying for them to fight to keep a discriminatory law in place that we do not agree with in any way.  What’s wrong with this picture?

We all pay taxes because we are required to do so.  I don’t know about you but I certainly didn’t send my hefty check to the IRS to fund the GOP’s discrimination against the lesbian and gay community.  I don’t believe in DOMA.  I was opposed to it way back when it was initially passed and I’m opposed to it now.  I don’t recall anyone from the GOP asking if I wanted to contribute my share of the hard earned tax dollars to assist them in perpetuating discrimination.

Fast forward to 2013.  Several courts have already found DOMA to be unconstitutional.  Now the United States Supreme Court is poised to hear two DOMA cases.  According to the Huffington Post, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), chair of the House Administration Committee, signed a revised contract with Bancroft LLC that increases the spending cap to $3 million, allowing the firm’s attorneys to continue defending DOMA in  court.  The revised contract also bears the signatures of Bancroft partner Paul Clement and Kerry Kircher, general counsel for the House of Representatives.  This took place on January 4th of this year.

The Huffington Post reports that:

“The revised contract comes on the heels of House Republican leaders inserting language into the rules package for the 113th Congress that authorizes the House legal team to keep paying outside counsel to defend DOMA. The rules package also states that the House legal team continues to “speak for” all House members in its defense of DOMA — language that infuriated Democrats opposed to the matter. All but one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.), voted to pass the rules package, effectively endorsing the DOMA language. But a Jones spokesman told The Huffington Post that Jones’ opposition wasn’t DOMA-related.”

They are a sneaky bunch, wouldn’t you say?

House Democrats voiced their opposition to pouring more taxpayer dollars into defending DOMA in a letter to Boehner:

“We wish to strongly reaffirm our objections to the repeated actions by the Republican leadership to secretly and dramatically increase the contract between the House and outside counsel in arguing to uphold the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in more than a dozen cases,” reads the letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“It is the height of hypocrisy for House Republicans to waste public funds in one breath then claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility in the next,” the letter continues. “With Republicans willing to take our economy and our country to the brink of default in the name of deficit reduction, there is simply no excuse for any Member of Congress to commit taxpayer dollars to an unnecessary — and futile — legal battle.”

Okay folks, it’s time to start making some serious noise.  Call, write and e-mail your congress members.  Ask everyone you know to do the same.  This is unconscionable.  If the GOP wants to continue fighting DOMA, they should do so with their own money, not with ours.

It’s bad enough we are forced to fund pensions and insurance plans for Congress when we had no say in those expenditures either!  Don’t even get me started.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Supreme Court Schedules Hearings on Perry and Windsor Cases in March

The Supreme Court of the United States has announced that it will hear oral arguments in the Perry case (Proposition 8) on Tuesday, March 26th.  The Windsor case is scheduled for Wednesday, March 27th.  Read AFER’s press release below:

Washington, DC – Today, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Enacted in November 2008, Proposition 8 eliminated the fundamental freedom of gay and lesbian Californians to marry. On December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court granted review in Perry to consider whether Proposition 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Perry case was filed on May 22, 2009, in Federal District Court on behalf of two California couples, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. On February 7, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark ruling upholding the historic August 2010 decision of the Federal District Court that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court also indicated today that it will hear oral argument in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on Wednesday, March 27, 2013. Enacted by Congress in 1996, DOMA nullifies the marriages of gay and lesbian couples for all purposes of federal law.

The Supreme Court will receive written briefs from the parties in Perry and Windsor prior to hearing oral argument.

READ THE SUPREME COURT’S MARCH 2013 ORAL ARGUMENT CALENDAR HERE: www.afer.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Oral-Argument-Calendar.pdf
READ THE SUPREME COURT’S ORDER GRANTING CERTIORARI HERE: www.afer.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2012-12-07-Certiorari-Granted.pdf 
READ THE FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT’S DECISION HERE: www.afer.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Prop8Decision.pdf 

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional By Federal Appeals Court In New York

This just in …

Today, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the second court in the country to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.  Today’s ruling upholds a lower court’s decision that the 1996 DOMA law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

According to the three-judge panel, DOMA violates equal protection.  A federal appeals court in Boston found DOMA unconstitutional earlier this year.

The issue is expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court this term.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Social Security Benefits and The Defense Of Marriage Act: Can I Do Anything Now To Preserve My Rights?

This is a must-read publication from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD):

Social Security Benefits and The Defense Of Marriage Act: Can I Do Anything Now To Preserve My Rights?

Note that it is a large .pdf file that may take a few moments to load.

Here’s an important excerpt:

“If you would meet the qualifications for the spousal benefit but for DOMA, you have two possible courses of action: you can apply now to try to preserve your claim back to the date of application or wait to see if DOMA is repealed or found unconstitutional in court and then apply.”

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

GLAD Gears Up for Supreme Court Showdown

I received the following press release:

GLAD Gears Up for Supreme Court Showdown

DOMA Challenge Likely to be Heard in Coming Session

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is gearing up for an historic year in which one of its two challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Gill v. Office of Personnel Management or Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management will likely be heard at the United States Supreme Court. Legal observers have called Gill a “blockbuster”, “game-changer”, and the “the case to watch” in the drive to knock out DOMA.

To support the effort, GLAD has launched the Supreme Court Showdown campaign, pledging to Knock Out DOMA. GLAD will raise funds to support legal preparations for the groundbreaking cases, as well as to educate the public about the harms caused by DOMA.

“We have been preparing since May 17, 2004, the day that marriage became a reality for same-sex couples in the United States,” said Lee Swislow, Executive Director of GLAD. “Right then and there we began crafting our legal challenge to DOMA. We have a smart strategy, the best possible legal team, inspiring and committed plaintiffs, and the right case at the right time.”

GLAD filed Gill in March 2009. Two federal courts – the Massachusetts District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit – have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional and that Gill plaintiffs deserve to be treated equally under the law and have their marriage respected by the federal government. GLAD filed Pedersen in November 2009, and on July 31, 2012, Judge Vanessa Bryant of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut also ruled in those plaintiffs’ favor finding DOMA unconstitutional. GLAD has now petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari before judgment in Pedersen.

The First Circuit called Supreme Court review of GLAD’s Gill DOMA case “highly likely” in its unanimous ruling against the law. The Supreme Court will likely decide by the end of October whether it will review either case.To sign up for text alerts about this and other case developments, visit www.glad.org/text-alerts.

The plaintiffs in Gill and Pedersen are legally married same-sex couples and widowers, all of whom have been denied a federal marriage-related right or benefit because of DOMA. “Our plaintiffs have shared the details of their lives and their relationships with judges, with the media, and with total strangers. They’ve waited patiently and courageously,“ said Swislow. “It’s time they were treated the same as their married friends and neighbors.”

GLAD’s victory in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in 2003 made Massachusetts the first state in which same-sex couples could marry. Goodridge opened the door to marriage equality in other subsequent states, and positioned GLAD as a strategic leader in the marriage equality movement. GLAD also won the Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health case in 2008, which brought marriage to Connecticut, and co-counseled in the Baker v. Vermont case which brought civil unions to that state in 1999.

Developments in Gill and Pedersen can be followed at www.glad.org/DOMA.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

GLAD Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Pedersen DOMA Challenge

I received the following press release today:

GLAD Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Pedersen DOMA Challenge

Today, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) asked the Supreme Court to review Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, a lawsuit challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples. GLAD is representing six married couples and a widower, from Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, who have all been denied critical federal benefits because of DOMA.

“With each passing day, DOMA denies ordinary marital protections and heaps disrespect on our plaintiffs’ families, and thousands of married same-sex couples across the country,” said GLAD’s Mary L. Bonauto, co-lead counsel in Pedersen.

“Joanne Pedersen still cannot enroll her wife on her health insurance plan like other retirees from federal service. Lynda DeForge, like other workers whose spouses have serious medical conditions, still can’t take Family and Medical Leave Act leave to care for Raquel Ardin. Jerry Passaro continues to struggle without access to his late husband’s pension. The Artis, Kleinerman-Gehre and Savoy-Weiss families are each raising three children, but under DOMA pay extra federal income taxes or health insurance costs. DOMA even intrudes into the New Hampshire State Retirement System in denying a retired school teacher a health insurance subsidy for her spouse,” Bonauto added. “These plaintiffs need to hear definitively from the Supreme Court whether or not the federal government will ultimately respect their love, commitment and legal bonds.”

In a decision issued July 31, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut ruled in Pedersen that DOMA Section 3 unconstitutionally discriminates against our plaintiffs. GLAD filed what is known as a petition for “certiorari before judgment”— giving the Supreme Court an opportunity to immediately review the district court decision.

Among the arguments GLAD makes in petitioning the Supreme Court for immediate review in Pedersen are:

  • the case raises a question of national importance;
  • continued delay exacerbates the stigma and economic burdens on plaintiffs’ families and children;
  • Congress has no legitimate interest in overriding state marriage policies where states license marriages and not the federal government;
  • there is a practical need for a Supreme Court decision as there are conflicting decisions on DOMA’s constitutionality in various federal courts and additional challenges are pending;
  • the Obama Administration is not defending the law in court but is still enforcing it, resulting in ever more lawsuits against DOMA; and
  • Pedersen is an exceptionally good case for the Court’s review because it demonstrates DOMA’s impact on a range of important federal programs like federal income tax, Social Security, federal employee and retiree benefits, and federal statutes (e.g. the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

GLAD’s petition for certiorari in Pedersen comes after the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), the congressional leadership body that is defending DOMA, and the Department of Justice each requested certiorari in our First Circuit Court DOMA challenge, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. DOJ also filed a petition for certiorari before judgment in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, a DOMA challenge from the Ninth Circuit Court. Plaintiff Edith Schain Windsor also filed a petition for certiorari before judgment in her DOMA challenge, Windsor v. United States, currently pending in the Second Circuit Court.

You can read the petition here.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

GLAD’s Legal Team Scores Another Victory in the DOMA Challenge!

This just in …  GLAD, the legal team representing the Plaintiffs in the Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management case challenging section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has scored another victory!  According to their media advisory, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of the United State District Court, District of Connecticut today issued a decision to grant the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss.

“[Section 3 of DOMA]  therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” wrote Judge Bryant.

Read today’s court decision here.

For more on the Pederson case, visit GLAD’s website here.

One case at a  time, folks.  One case at a time.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

BLAG Moves to Stop Proceedings in DOMA Case Pedersen v. OPM

This press release just arrived from GLAD:

BLAG Moves to Stop Proceedings in DOMA Case Pedersen v. OPM

Would Deny Resolution for Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire Plaintiffs

The Bi-Partisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has filed a motion to stay the proceeding in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) now pending in federal court in the District of Connecticut.

The case, filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), involves six married couples and a widower, from Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, who have all been denied federal benefits only because of DOMA.  BLAG’s grounds are that the Windsor case is now pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and that BLAG will seek Supreme Court review of the Massachusetts & Gill cases from the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Our plaintiffs are being denied access to vital federal programs, and now BLAG also wants to deny them access to any resolution of their case,” said Mary L. Bonauto of GLAD, lead counsel in the case.

“BLAG acknowledges DOMA’s constitutionality is a matter of great national importance, so it should want the judge to contribute her opinion on this important issue, especially where the case has already been fully briefed and is just awaiting decision,” said Bonauto.  “While BLAG tries to thwart this case, Jerry Passaro continues to be denied his late husband’s pension.  Anne Meitzen continues to be unable to go on her wife Joanne Pedersen’s health insurance.  Lynda DeForge continues to be unable to care for her wife Raquel Ardin because she can’t get Family Medical Leave.”

Bonauto said that GLAD will oppose the motion to stay.  “There is no burden on BLAG or the courts where any appeal can be consolidated efficiently with the Windsor case,” she added.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

GLAD: Why BLAG’S Arguments Defending DOMA Don’t Work

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is the the cross to bear for same-sex couples in the United States.  I hate DOMA.  Most everyone I know wonders how such a blatantly discriminatory piece of legislation could have become a federal act.  Still, there are those who seem to have dedicated their lives to making sure the crazy thing stays in place.

Rather than paraphrase what the good folks at GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) have to say about BLAG’s arguments to defend DOMA, I’ll just refer you to their fact sheet:

Read:   Why BLAG’S Arguments Defending DOMA Don’t Work

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Corporate Support for Same-Sex Marriage Continues to Increase

As more and more companies focus on socially conscious initiatives, it is a positive step for gay rights activists that so many of those corporations are lending their support to the marriage equality movement.  Politico reported that:

“Nowhere is that more apparent than in the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which a federal appeals court called unconstitutional on Thursday. Forty-eight companies, including Nike, Time Warner Cable, Aetna, Exelon Corp., and Xerox had signed a brief arguing that the law negatively affected their businesses.”

The article notes that in 2011, some 25 executives, including the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Viacom and Alcoa, lobbied legislators in New York legislators to legalize same-sex marriage in that state.  Further, in January of 2012, several major corporations, including Microsoft, Boeing, Vulcan and RealNetworks,  supported a bill in Washington State that would legalize gay marriage there.

Retail giant, Target, which lent its support to the fight for same-sex marriage in Minnesota two years ago, is selling Pride tee shirtsto raise money for a Minnesota gay rights group working to fight the marriage ban in that state.

As polls continue to show an increase in the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage, it is reassuring that major corporations are standing up to the opposition in favor of marriage equality.  Kudos to every company that does the right thing.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.