WASHINGTON - The American Federation of Government Employees has joined a coalition of labor unions calling for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be declared unconstitutional.
AFGE signed on to an amicus brief opposing DOMA that was filed Nov. 3 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The court is hearing an appeal of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which was brought by federal employees with same-sex spouses and survivors of federal employees who were denied a variety of federal benefits under DOMA that are available to heterosexual married persons.
“The Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, and that’s simply wrong,” AFGE National President John Gage said.
In a lower court decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. DOMA also states that no state or other political division – including the federal government – may be required to recognize a same-sex relationship as marriage, even if it is considered such in another state.
“By denying married, same-sex couples access to the same federal benefits that heterosexual married couples receive, DOMA violates the constitutional principles upon which this country was founded,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.
AFGE Staff Counsel Leisha Self, who is AFGE’s lead attorney on the case, said labor unions oppose DOMA primarily because it restricts access to workers’ benefits.
“The Defense of Marriage Act denies these couples spousal healthcare benefits and equal access to family medical leave, threatens their retirement planning, and restricts their mobility by not allowing them to relocate for the purposes of employment,” Self said.
More than 15 labor organizations signed on to the amicus brief, including AFGE, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and United Auto Workers.