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DOMA Needs To End….This Case May Start The Process

May 21, 2009

Consider the following.

When Ms. Bowe-Shulman added her spouse, Dorene, a cancer survivor, to her health plan, the government started taxing her on the value of Dorene’s insurance, she says — a tax that doesn’t apply to straight married couples. Combined with other federal taxes assessed because they are single in Washington’s eyes, the Bowe-Shulmans, who have two daughters, say they paid $3,332 in extra taxes in 2006 alone.

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In October 2006, Gerry Studds, the first openly gay U.S. congressman, took his dog out for a morning walk and collapsed with a blood clot in his lung. He died a few days later.

Ever since, his widower, Dean Hara, married legally to Mr. Studds in Massachusetts, has been trying in vain to collect survivor benefits from Mr. Studds’s federal pension and health insurance — tens of thousands of dollars he says he would be getting if he were straight.

Now, in a lawsuit, Mr. Hara, two other gay widowers and seven gay couples also wed in Massachusetts are challenging the law that keeps them from getting federal marital benefits.

Congressman Studds and Mr. Hara got engaged in 1991. Mr. Hara, who is 51 and works as a financial adviser, remembers watching the congressional debate on DOMA from the visitors’ gallery. “I don’t think we ever thought we’d be married,” he says. The pair were among the earliest to wed after the 2004 Massachusetts court ruling.

By then, Mr. Studds had retired from Congress and was receiving a pension and federal health coverage. In June of last year, an administrative judge put an end to Mr. Hara’s attempts to get survivor benefits, saying “a same-sex marriage in any jurisdiction cannot be recognized for benefit entitlement purposes,” according to the lawsuit.

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Now, in a lawsuit, Mr. Hara, two other gay widowers and seven gay couples also wed in Massachusetts are challenging the law that keeps them from getting federal marital benefits.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. That means the government must ignore same-sex marriages even if a state chooses to recognize them, as Massachusetts and four other states have done. A recipient of many federal benefits must be either an opposite-sex spouse or, in some cases, a child.

Although DOMA has been unsuccessfully challenged before, the new lawsuit is different because of the number of plaintiffs, its sharp focus on the marital-benefits issue and because the plaintiffs all are legally married or survivors of legal marriages.

A victory for them would increase the financial benefits of gay marriage, which could help spread the practice. Though legal experts say courts would be reluctant to invalidate laws set by Congress, supporters hope a victory will put pressure on Congress to repeal DOMA, a rescission that President Barack Obama says he favors even though he opposes gay marriage

One Comment
  1. May 22, 2009 11:08 AM

    Personally, I’m not fond of homosexuals; HOWEVER, I don’t hate them or think they should all die, I just don’t agree with their lifestyle. They should be allowed the same benefits as a married couple and be allowed to marry; it’s their business and not anyone elses.

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