Labor groups file amicus brief opposing Defense of Marriage Act

Yesterday, three union organizations filed an amicus curiae brief in Karen Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one of the key cases related to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The brief attacks the constitutionality of DOMA, the law that prohibits federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. The brief was jointly filed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Change to Win (CTW), and the National Education Association (NEA). Read the full brief HERE (PDF). 

Golinski v. O.P.M. is currently awaiting a hearing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A February 22, 2012 ruling in the case found that DOMA's Section 3, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. Last week, the Department of Justice filed a writ of certiorari requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court hear Golinski at the federal level. DOMA is currently being defended in the case by the GOP-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which stepped in to defend DOMA when the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the anti-gay law.

The labor organizations explain a number of ways that DOMA limits the rights of workers in same-sex partnerships. The brief's key points are that DOMA restricts spouses' access to healthcare protections; denies benefits to same-sex couples when a worker sufferes an injury or becomes ill; limits workers' retirement options by denying Social Security and tax benefits to same-sex spouses; and applies unfair immigration laws that hinder same-sex spouses' ability to remain in the United States for work. 

Altogether, AFL-CIO, CTW, and the NEA represent over 20 million workers in the United States. Each organization has a long history of supporting gay and lesbian causes and explaining that anti-gay discrimination is directly related to a number of labor rights issues. In addition to explaining in detail the specific four ways that DOMA economically disadvantages people in same-sex partnerships, the organizations summarize the stake that the labor movement has in the freedom to marry:

DOMA, by intention and design, ensures that workers with same-sex spouses earn less money, are taxed more on their wages and benefits, and have available to them fewer valuable benefits and less economic security than their counterparts with different-sex spouses. As such, DOMA severely impedes our ability to represent union members and to advocate and seek justice for all workers. ... DOMA has the effect of relegating an entire class of woring families to lower economic security. [...]

DOMA has far-reaching detrimental effects on American workers, and those seeking to work in the U.S. DOMA creates two castes of married workers: those married to a person of a different sex, and those married to a person of the same sex. By denying to certain employees workplace benefits otherwise provided to married Americans, DOMA undermines the economic security of this entire class of American workers, as well as the very goals of economic and family stability that federal laws and workplace benefits were intended to promote.  

The brief concludes by asking the Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court's ruling in Golinski that DOMA's Section 3 - the section that defines "marriage" as a union between a man and a woman - unconstitutional. Read the full brief HERE (PDF).

This move from these three influential labor organizations comes a day after a similar brief was filed by 132 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The briefs pack a significant punch in the Golinski case and affirm strong support for the Court of Appeals to uphold the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional. 

Freedom to marry applauds these powerful amicus briefs from these influential leaders who know that eliminating the discriminatory DOMA from our federal legislation is the right thing to do. We thank these labor organizations for recognizing the important ties between the labor movement and LGBT movement, and we appreciate their decision to take charge, raise their voices, and make their opposition to DOMA known by the Court. 

Read about all of the briefs opposing DOMA: