The Obama administration late Tuesday filed petitions with the Supreme Court asking justices to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Justice Department filed the requests in case of Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, which is currently pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals, and the case of Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services, in which the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.
In the petition for the Golinski case, the Justice Department states that justices should hear the litigation so that the question of DOMA’s constitutionality “may be authoritatively decided by this court.”
“Authoritative resolution of the question presented is of great importance to the United States and to respondent Golinski and tens of thousands of others who are being denied the equal enjoyment of the benefits that federal law makes available to persons who are legally married under state law,” the filing states.
The decision is signed by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli as well as other U.S. attorneys including Stuart Delery, who’s gay and acting assistant attorney general for civil division. Delery has been arguing on the same side as LGBT advocates in litigation against DOMA in court during oral arguments.
In a letter dated July 3, the Justice Department notifies the Ninth Circuit that the petition was filed in the Golinski case in addition to telling the court that a similar filing was made in the case of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services. Last month, attorneys for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in the Massachusetts case and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.
The Golinski litigation was filed in 2008 by Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster on behalf of Karen Golinski, a court employee at the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Alex Kozinki ruled that Golinski should be afforded spousal benefits for her partner of 20 years whom she married in California, but she was denied these benefits because of DOMA.
In a statement, Tara Borelli, staff attorney for Lambda Legal, commended the Obama administration for wanting to bring DOMA to an end through an authoritative decision.
“This development highlights the desire by all, the government included, to resolve this issue quickly,” Borelli writes. “It is clear to us, to the Solicitor General and to the Department of Justice that DOMA’s days are numbered. The last four courts to consider the question have all found Section 3 of DOMA — which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples’ valid marriages — to be unconstitutional. DOJ’s action may speed the day when the Supreme Court reaches the issue.”
It’s not the first time the Justice Department had sought to advance DOMA litigation. In March, the Obama administration asked for an en banc, or full court, hearing before the Ninth Circuit in the Golinski case instead of the usual three-panel review, but this petition was denied by the Ninth Circuit. For now, oral arguments have been scheduled in the case before the Ninth Circuit on Sept. 20.
[h/t] Prop 8 Trial Tracker