212 Members of Congress File Historic Amicus Brief on DOMA Case before U.S. Supreme Court

Mar 1, 2013 Issues: LGBT Rights, Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Ranking Constitution Subcommittee Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate, along with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Ranking House Judiciary Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), are filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Section 3 defines marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights.  A total of 172 Members of the House and 40 Members of the Senate – including LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chairs Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Mark Takano (D-CA), as well as Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) – signed onto the brief.

These 212 Members decided to participate as amici in this case because they want the Supreme Court to hear the full story from Congress, and to explain why they believe that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.  They disagree with the arguments being made by lawyers hired to defend DOMA in court by the House Majority following the divided 3-2 vote of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG).  The amicus brief filed today makes clear that BLAG does not speak for Congress, and that many members believe that Section 3 should be struck down because there simply is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to all other married couples.  As the brief explains: “DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples.”

In Edith “Edie” Windsor’s case, the federal government taxed Edie more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009.  The couple, constituents of Rep. Nadler in New York City, first met in 1965 and married in 2007, after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years.  Yet, when Thea died, the federal government treated them as complete strangers because of DOMA, significantly reducing Edie’s inheritance by denying her protections from the estate tax that other married couples receive.  Edie, who is now 83 years old, challenged DOMA as a violation of equal protection.  The federal district court in New York City and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. 

The Members’ brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit’s decision.  It adds the unique perspective of Members of Congress – including some who voted against DOMA and others who voted for it – about the enactment of DOMA and why Section 3 is unconstitutional. 

Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in nine states and the District of Columbia, and 18,000 such couples remain legally married in California.  It is clear that DOMA does not rationally serve and, in fact, undermines, Congress’s legitimate interests in the welfare of American families.

As the Congressional amici point out to the court: “The goal of maximizing the financial well-being and independence of widows is not furthered by depriving Edie Windsor and others like her of the estate-tax exemption that other married Americans receive.  The policy of encouraging employers to provide family health benefits is not served either by denying to employers the tax deduction for providing those benefits to married gay and lesbian couples or by refusing to cover spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees.  Our national security is undermined by denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers, especially during periods of armed conflict.  Our veterans are dishonored when we deny them the right to have their spouses buried alongside them in our national cemeteries.”

Full text of amicus brief


Full list of signatories


Lead signatories:


Nancy Pelosi

Steny H. Hoyer

James E. Clyburn

Jerrold Nadler

John Conyers, Jr.

Harry Reid

Richard J. Durbin

Dianne Feinstein

Patrick J. Leahy

Charles E. Schumer

Patty Murray

Jared Polis

David N. Cicilline

Sean Patrick Maloney

Mark Pocan

Kyrsten Sinema

Mark Takano




Tammy Baldwin

Michael F. Bennet

Richard Blumenthal

Barbara Boxer

Sherrod Brown

Maria Cantwell

Benjamin Cardin

Thomas R. Carper

Christopher Coons

William “Mo” Cowan

Al Franken

Kirsten Gillibrand

Tom Harkin

Martin Heinrich

Mazie K. Hirono

Tim Kaine

Angus S. King, Jr.

Amy Klobuchar

Frank R. Lautenberg

Claire McCaskill

Robert Menendez

Jeff Merkley

Barbara A. Mikulski

Christopher S. Murphy

Bernie Sanders

Brian Schatz

Jeanne Shaheen

Debbie Stabenow

Jon Tester

Mark Udall

Mark R. Warner

Elizabeth Warren

Sheldon Whitehouse

Ron Wyden




Robert E. Andrews

Ron Barber

Karen Bass

Joyce Beatty

Xavier Becerra

Ami Bera

Timothy H. Bishop

Earl Blumenauer

Suzanne Bonamici

Robert A. Brady

Bruce L. Braley

Corinne Brown

Julia Brownley

Cheri Bustos

Lois Capps

Michael E. Capuano

Tony Cárdenas

John C. Carney, Jr.

André Carson

Matthew A. Cartwright

Kathy Castor

Joaquin Castro

Judy Chu

Yvette D. Clarke

Wm. Lacy Clay

Emanuel Cleaver

Steve Cohen

Gerald E. Connolly

Joe Courtney

Joseph Crowley

Elijah E. Cummings

Danny K. Davis

Susan A. Davis

Diana DeGette

John K. Delaney

Rosa L. DeLauro

Suzan K. DelBene

Theodore E. Deutch

John D. Dingell

Lloyd Doggett

Michael F. Doyle

Tammy Duckworth

Donna F. Edwards

Keith Ellison

Eliot L. Engel

Anna G. Eshoo

Elizabeth H. Esty

Sam Farr

Chaka Fattah

Bill Foster

Lois Frankel

Marcia L. Fudge

Tulsi Gabbard

John Garamendi

Joe Garcia

Alan Grayson

Al Green

Raúl M. Grijalva

Luis V. Gutierrez

Janice Hahn

Colleen W. Hanabusa

Alcee L. Hastings

Denny Heck

Brian Higgins

James A. Himes

Rush Holt

Michael M. Honda

Steven A. Horsford

Jared Huffman

Steve Israel

Sheila Jackson Lee

Hakeem S. Jeffries

Eddie Bernice Johnson

Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.

Marcy Kaptur

William R. Keating

Joseph P. Kennedy III

Daniel T. Kildee

Derek Kilmer

Ann Kirkpatrick

Ann M. Kuster

James R. Langevin

John B. Larson

Barbara Lee

Sander M. Levin

John Lewis

David Loebsack

Zoe Lofgren

Alan S. Lowenthal

Nita M. Lowey

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Daniel B. Maffei

Carolyn B. Maloney

Edward J. Markey

Doris O. Matsui

Carolyn McCarthy

Betty McCollum

Jim McDermott

James P. McGovern

Jerry McNerney

Gregory W. Meeks

Grace Meng

Michael H. Michaud

George Miller

Gwen Moore

James P. Moran

Patrick Murphy

Grace F. Napolitano

Richard E. Neal

Gloria Negrete McLeod

Richard M. Nolan

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Beto O’Rourke

William L. Owens

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Ed Pastor

Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Ed Perlmutter

Gary C. Peters

Scott H. Peters

Chellie Pingree

David E. Price

Mike Quigley

Charles B. Rangel

Lucille Roybal-Allard

Raul Ruiz

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Bobby L. Rush

Tim Ryan

Linda T. Sánchez

Loretta Sanchez

John P. Sarbanes

Janice D. Schakowsky

Adam B. Schiff

Bradley S. Schneider

Allyson Y. Schwartz

Robert C. “Bobby” Scott

José E. Serrano

Carol Shea-Porter

Brad Sherman

Albio Sires

Louise McIntosh Slaughter

Adam Smith

Jackie Speier

Eric Swalwell

Mike Thompson

John F. Tierney

Dina Titus

Paul Tonko

Niki Tsongas

Chris Van Hollen

Juan Vargas

Marc A. Veasey

Nydia M. Velázquez

Timothy J. Walz

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Maxine Waters

Henry A. Waxman

Peter Welch

John A. Yarmuth