The Obama administration on Friday formally urged the Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
In a brief filed Friday evening, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that DOMA’s section three, which bars married same-sex couples from filing joint federal tax returns and other federal spousal benefits, is unconstitutional:
Section 3 of DOMA violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in United States v. Windsor on March 27. At issue is whether the law violates the Fifth Amendment guarantee of equal protection for legally married same-sex couples. The case surrounds Edith Windsor, who was forced to pay a federal estate tax of $363,053 upon the death of her wife, while heterosexual spouses are generally able to inherit estates tax-free.
The Obama administration’s brief comes almost exactly a year after Obama instructed the Justice Department to no longer defend DOMA’s constitutionality.