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NAACP LDF Urges Supreme Court to Strike DOMA

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Friday, March 1, 2013

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) submitted a friend-of-the-court brieftoday to the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor asking the Court to hold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. LDF’s brief urges the Court to apply heightened scrutiny to the law because it intentionally relegates gays and lesbians to inferior social status.

LDF’s brief states that DOMA and other laws that purposefully infringe on the rights of gay people are “analogous to the racial caste system effectuated under ‘separate but equal’ in an important respect:  they create and perpetuate a social hierarchy that is premised on the superiority of one group over another.”  “DOMA’s denial of marital benefits under federal law to gays and lesbians subordinates them within the institution of marriage. And like early laws that were designed to oppress African Americans, DOMA relegates gays and lesbians to an unequal and inferior status as a group.”

On October 18, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to refund $363,053 in estate taxes to Edie Windsor, a widow who had been married to a woman, and was therefore ineligible for a refund under DOMA.

DOMA is the law that denies marital benefits under federal law to gays and lesbians who are legally married under state law while extending benefits to married heterosexual couples.  The Obama administration has declined to defend the federal statute and asked the Court to hear Ms. Windsor’s case.

LDF is also part of a coalition of civil rights groups who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the United States Supreme Court earlier this week in Hollingsworth v. Perry urging the Court to apply heightened scrutiny to its examination of California’s Proposition 8 which denies gay men and women the right to marry in that State, and to hold that the proposition is unconstitutional.