New York, NY, October 18, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed today's decision by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals declaring Section 3 of the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) unconstitutional.
DOMA is a federal law defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns.
"This decision reaffirms that the principle of equal treatment means that same-sex couples are entitled to all of the federal rights, protections and benefits of civil marriage," said Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Perhaps even more importantly, this decision makes clear that the government must show that a law like DOMA that discriminates against gay and lesbian people must advance an important governmental goal – and we can think of none that would satisfy that test."
The New York-based court upheld a lower court decision in Windsor v. U.S., finding that Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation. Even more significantly, the ruling says that actions constituting sexual orientation discrimination must undergo "heightened scrutiny" and will not stand unless the state can offer a compelling reason for the discrimination. This is the second appellate court to find DOMA unconstitutional, and the first to insist on such heightened scrutiny.
ADL filed an amicus brief on behalf of 14 organizations challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. Joining the League on the brief was a distinguished group of religious and civil rights organizations representing many different faith traditions and cultures, including the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Hindu American Foundation, Japanese Citizens League and Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.