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Vermont Joins with New York and Connecticut in Urging Federal Court to Strike Down The Defense of Marriage Act

CONTACT: Bridget Asay, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3181

September 7, 2012

Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that Vermont, in a joint filing with New York and Connecticut, has asked a federal appeals court to hold unconstitutional a federal law that refuses recognition for same-sex marriages. The federal statute, called the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defines marriage for all federal purposes as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.” Because of DOMA, married same-sex couples in Vermont and other states are not eligible for a wide range of federal benefits and are treated as unmarried for federal tax purposes. “These married couples – our friends and neighbors in Vermont – have every right to fair and equal treatment by the federal government. Instead, they are denied Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, and health and retirement benefits. I am pleased to have worked with New York and Connecticut on this brief urging the Second Circuit to end this discriminatory practice,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

The joint filing by the three states is a “friend of the court” brief in a case pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. The brief emphasizes that states, not the federal government, regulate marriage and family relationships, and argues that Congress does not have authority to refuse recognition for same-sex marriages allowed under state law. By essentially “unmarrying” these lawfully married couples for all federal purposes, DOMA stigmatizes same-sex couples and undermines state efforts to end discrimination and afford equal treatment to same-sex couples and their families. The “only coherent aim served by DOMA,” the brief explains, “is to codify animus towards same-sex couples and disapproval for States that sanction same-sex marriage,” and this treatment of same-sex couples as “second-class citizens” is not constitutional.

The case is Windsor v. United States, No. 12-2335, pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. A Congressional group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, is defending DOMA. The U.S. Department of Justice has taken the position that the challenged provision of DOMA is unconstitutional.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.