A lesbian couple married under Connecticut’s law recognizing same-sex nuptials plans to file a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against DOMA being filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), are legally married in Connecticut. But because of DOMA, a 1996 law prohibiting federal government recognition of same-sex marriages, Meitzen’s attempt to add her wife to her federal health insurance was rejected.
“If we were heterosexual […] we would have the benefits,” Ms. Pedersen said. “I would just like the federal government to recognize our marriage as just as real as everybody else’s.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is filing a similar suit on behalf of Edith S. Windsor, a New York woman who was forced to pay a federal estate tax when her spouse died last year —despite the fact that the couple’s state of residence, New York, recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages.
According to The New York Times, “The two new lawsuits, which involve plaintiffs from New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, expand the attack geographically and also encompass more of the 1,138 federal laws and regulations that the Defense of Marriage Act potentially affects — including the insurance costs amounting to several hundred dollars a month in the case of Ms. Pedersen and Ms. Meitzen, and a $350,000 estate tax payment in the A.C.L.U. case.”
President Obama’s Department of Justice is appealing a federal judge’s July ruling in an earlier Massachusetts case filed by GLAD that found DOMA unconstitutional. The Department of Justice is widely expected to defend DOMA in the two new cases, as it traditionally does acts of Congress (including a controversial pending appeal to a ruling that found the military’s ban on openly gay soldiers unconstitutional).
President Obama has indicated he would like to see the both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the federal DOMA repealed—statements that will almost certainly continue to draw scrutiny as his administration prepares its legal defenses of the anti-LGBT laws.