Ten current and former U.S. senators on Monday filed a brief in a federal court case over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), telling justices who ruled part of the law unconstitutional that their reasoning was deeply flawed.
In February, a U.S. District judge ruled that DOMA should not prevent a federal worker’s same-sex partner from receiving employer-provided benefits, because the law was based on “animus toward gay men and lesbians.” The case has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The senators — Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby and Roger Wicker, all of whom helped pass DOMA in 1996 — said the lower court’s ruling reflects a “fundamental misunderstanding of the judicial role.”
Congress, they wrote, was motivated by a 1993 Hawaii state court decision indicating same-sex couples may be entitled to marry under that state’s constitution. If Hawaiian courts pursued that route and mandated same-sex marriage, the gay activist organization Lambda Legal planned to use it to push for same-sex marriages to be recognized nationwide.
“The District Court virtually ignored Congress’s interest in avoiding massive legal uncertainty, needless litigation, and inconsistent results with regard to the availability of federal benefits,” the senators wrote in their brief. “Nothing in [the Supreme Court’s case law] authorizes a court to strike down an otherwise constitutional law based on the belief that legislators individually, or the Congress as a whole, were motivated by ‘animus.’ Adopting any such doctrine would be highly dangerous to the separation-of-powers and the proper functioning of our constitutional system.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read District Judge Jeffrey White’s ruling on Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management.
Read the amicus brief filed by U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby and Roger Wicker.