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House Republicans Will Ask Supreme Court to Hear DOMA Case

The Supreme Court could rule on DOMA within the year if House Republicans defending the law ask justices to consider their appeal, as BLAG has indicated in a new filing.

BY Julie Bolcer

June 21 2012 11:24 AM ET

John Boehner

The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group appointed by House Republican leadership to defend the Defense of Marriage Act revealed that it plans to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the law being challenged in federal courts.

According to MetroWeekly, BLAG lawyers stated their intention, which had been widely anticipated, Wednesday in a filing to the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, where a DOMA case, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, is pending. The group asked the court to put that case, brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, on hold.

“One of the reasons for doing so, BLAG's lawyers said, is because a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA would answer the questions raised in the Pedersen challenge,” reported Chris Geidner.

The filing indicated that the House planned to ask the Supreme Court to hear Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in that case that section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was unconstitutional.

BLAG lawyers wrote that Supreme Court review of DOMA is “highly likely.” Their Pedersen brief anticipated that “the Court likely will docket the case for briefing, argument and decision during the October 2012 Term.” That means that the high court would issue a DOMA decision by June next year if the justices decide to take the case, as most legal scholars expect. Once BLAG files its petition, other parties including GLAD will have 30 days to submit their responses.

GLAD, which brought the Gill v. Office of Personnel Management case that was decided alongside the Massachusetts case in the First Circuit, said Thursday that it would oppose BLAG’s motion to stay in the Pedersen case. The case involves six married couples and a widower, from Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, denied federal benefits under DOMA.

“Our plaintiffs are being denied access to vital federal programs, and now BLAG also wants to deny them access to any resolution of their case,” said Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel in the case.

“BLAG acknowledges DOMA’s constitutionality is a matter of great national importance, so it should want the judge to contribute her opinion on this important issue, especially where the case has already been fully briefed and is just awaiting decision,” she continued. “While BLAG tries to thwart this case, Jerry Passaro continues to be denied his late husband’s pension. Anne Meitzen continues to be unable to go on her wife Joanne Pedersen’s health insurance.  Lynda DeForge continues to be unable to care for her wife Raquel Ardin because she can’t get Family Medical Leave.”

“There is no burden on BLAG or the courts where any appeal can be consolidated efficiently with the Windsor case,” she said.

A GLAD spokeswoman said the organization believed that BLAG would file its appeal request, known as a petition for writ of certiorari, with the Supreme Court next week.

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