February 28, 2013
Tim Kauffman
[email protected]

Largest Federal Employee Union Joins Legal Brief Against Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON – In a friend of the court legal brief filed today, the American Federation of Government Employees joined with the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The case under review, Windsor v. United States, involves New York resident Edie Windsor. Ms. Windsor sued the federal government after DOMA caused her to receive unequal tax treatment because of her same-sex marriage. DOMA forbids the federal government from treating married same-sex couples the same as other married couples with regards to taxes and many other benefits.

“The Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “It is time for the Supreme Court to strike down this unconstitutional law so all of our citizens are treated equally under the law, no matter who they choose to marry.”

AFGE was actively involved in preparing the amicus brief filed today by the AFL-CIO (a federation of 56 unions, including AFGE), Change to Win and the National Education Association. AFGE also is supporting efforts to strike down the 2008 ballot initiative that declared same-sex marriage illegal in California, and filed a legal brief in 2011 in a separate case brought by federal employees with same-sex spouses and survivors of federal employees who have been denied federal benefits under DOMA.

“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.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees can’t add their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Denying some federal employees, solely because of their sexual orientation, the benefits that their co-workers enjoy is unfair to these dedicated civil servants and their spouses, and it is antithetical to federal non-discrimination principles,” Self said. “AFGE cannot support this unfair, separate and unequal approach to federal employee benefits.”

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