On Friday, the administration filed a legal brief with the Justice Department that urges the Supreme Court to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. The brief formally asks the court to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional—the part that bars recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits such as income taxes or federal employee benefits. The brief points out that there are more than 1,000 federal statues and programs that come into play depending on a person’s marital status.
The Obama administration notes that some of these couples are legally married so targeting them is “a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society.” Moreover, the brief states it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli writes in the brief, “It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated.”
The primary challenge to the administration’s position comes from House Republicans through the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). That group filed its own brief earlier that advocates settling the issue through the democratic process, not through the courts.
The Obama administration’s brief disputes that position in the brief, stating several reasons why letting voters decide on the legal status of same-sex marriage is inappropriate: the long history of discrimination gays and lesbians have faced; that sexual orientation bears no relation to the ability to contribute to society; and that sexual orientation is a core part of identity with broad scientific evidence that it is not a voluntary choice.
You can read the full text of the brief here. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding DOMA in the case United States v. Windsor on March 27.