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Gill v. Office Of Personnel Management: Downfall Of The Defense Of Marriage Act?

By Teresa M. Harkins La Vita

This Emerging Issues Analysis analyzes the court's ruling in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. The author addresses the impact that this decision, out of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, may have on the future of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 USCS § 7. Ultimately, the author concludes that the future depends upon how the case progresses through the appeals process.

Author Teresa M. Harkins La Vita, an associate at the Levitt Law Group in Chelmsford, Mass., writes:

“In 2009, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (‘GLAD’) filed suit in the United States District Court in Massachusetts challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (‘DOMA’) on behalf of various petitioners. The Department of Justice (‘DOJ’) defended the action on behalf of the government.

“The case was ultimately tried before Judge Joseph Tauro, who has served on the United States District Court since his appointment to the bench by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972. GLAD represented petitioners whose same-sex marriages were recognized as valid in their home states, including Massachusetts, but were denied recognition at the federal level. The petitioners argued that Section 3 of DOMA violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution in denying their marriages equal recognition under the law. Underlying the claims were the denial of federal benefits to these same-sex couples (or widows of a same-sex marriage) that were otherwise available to members of opposite sex marriages.

“After hearing and consideration, the Honorable Judge Joseph Tauro held in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to the Plaintiffs in that case, violated core principles of equal protection secured in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

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