Oral Arguments on Deck in Historic DOMA Challenge



NANCY GILL AND MARCELLE LETOURNEAU 390x (COURTESY) ADVOCATE.COMThe timeline of any ruling from the First Circuit, when it would reach the Supreme Court, and whether it would be consolidated with any of the other DOMA challenges, remain open questions.

“It’s impossible to predict, honestly,” said Wu. “What we do know is that every day that goes by, gay and lesbian couples and families are paying the price and being harmed and so we hope for a timely resolution.”

Those couples include Beatrice Hernandez and Melba Albreu, who are among the co-plaintiffs in GLAD’s lawsuit being denied Social Security protections, employee and retiree benefits, and other federal benefits available to opposite-sex couples. Although legally married in Massachusetts in 2004, the women paid in excess of $25,000 between 2004 and 2008 because DOMA prevented them from filing their federal taxes jointly. The economic costs continue to mount for the couple, who have been together for 25 years and lived in Massachusetts for the past 20 years, with dreams of building a business together.

“Those are earnings that have a place in our lives and in our future,” said Beatrice, 51, a Web professional and writer. “We fully realize that when you file as married filing jointly, sometimes you may end up paying more in taxes, and if that’s the case, that’s fine, so long as we are filing our taxes in a manner that’s consistent with our civil status.”

The women, both Cuban-Americans, acknowledged the “slow process” of litigation but expressed gratitude to be able to live in a country where such proceedings can take place. They believe the case will bring a positive result.

“We are nervous but we feel confident that in the long run the case is a very good case,” said Melba, 56, a non-profit CFO. “The harm exists. There’s no doubt. The only reason why we are harmed is because DOMA discriminates against us. I came to this country looking for equality and for freedom, and to have an opportunity to be a part of this process is overwhelming, it really is.”

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. before the First Circuit Court of Appeals. No live stream of the proceedings will be available, but the court will post audio on its website after the hearing concludes. Check Advocate.com for updates from Boston.

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