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Vermont Urges Supreme Court To Strike Down The Defense Of Marriage Act

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-3173

February 28, 2013

Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that Vermont joined with 14 other States and the District of Columbia to urge the Supreme 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. “This is an important civil rights issue and I am proud to have Vermont join with other states in supporting the right of all married couples to fair and equal treatment by the federal government. Vermonters have worked long and hard to break down artificial walls that divide us and we should not tolerate a federal law that tries to maintain them,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

The “friend of the court” brief will be filed tomorrow in the United States Supreme Court. It emphasizes that states, not the federal government, regulate marriage and family relationships, and argues that Congress cannot refuse recognition for same-sex marriages allowed under state law. The case, United States v. Windsor, will be argued March 27. The U.S. Department of Justice has also taken the position that the challenged provision of DOMA is unconstitutional.

Vermont has also joined a friend of the court brief in a related case challenging California’s Proposition 8. “Prop 8,” as it is known, effectively reversed a California Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry and restricted marriage in California to opposite-sex couples. The brief, authored by Massachusetts and joined by more than a dozen states, argues that there is no legitimate basis for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, and that doing so harms families and children by depriving them of the stability and legal protections afforded by marriage. That case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will be argued March 26.

Decisions in both cases are expected by the end of June.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.