King, Michaud, Pingree Join 209 Members of Congress in Filing Amicus Brief on DOMA Case before Supreme Court

Mar 1, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME-2), and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) joined 209 Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief today in the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding legally married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. A total of 40 Senators and 172 members of the House signed onto the brief.

In the case of Edith “Edie” Windsor, the federal government taxed her more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009.  The couple first met in 1965 and married in 2007, after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years. Yet, under DOMA, when Thea died, the federal government was obligated to treat them as complete strangers, thereby significantly reducing Edie’s inheritance by denying her protections from the estate tax that other married couples receive. Edie, who is now 83 years old, challenged DOMA as a violation of equal protection, and the federal district court in New York City as well as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee.

The brief states:

“DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples…. The goal of maximizing the financial well-being and independence of widows is not furthered by depriving Edie Windsor and others like her of the estate-tax exemption that other married Americans receive. The policy of encouraging employers to provide family health benefits is not served either by denying to employers the tax deduction for providing those benefits to married gay and lesbian couples or by refusing to cover spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees. Our national security is undermined by denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers, especially during periods of armed conflict. Our veterans are dishonored when we deny them the right to have their spouses buried alongside them in our national cemeteries.”

The full text of the amicus brief, with a complete list of signatories, can be found here.