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GLMA Files Amicus Briefs in Marriage Equality Cases

On February 26, 2013, GLMA submitted friend-of-the-court briefs to the US Supreme Court, providing our expertise as health professionals to the Court and proudly joining a chorus of organizations and individuals in support of marriage equality.

GLMA’s amicus briefs in Hollingsworth v. Perry (challenge to California’s Proposition 8) and United States v. Windsor (challenge to federal DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act) highlight for the justices the scientific and clinical evidence that sexual orientation is an innate human characteristic.

The briefs cite decades of studies of sexual orientation establishing that genetic, hereditary, hormonal and biological influences are major factors in determining sexual orientation. The briefs also show how the evidence used by supporters of Proposition 8 and DOMA to show that sexual orientation is not innate is scientifically unreliable or wholly misconstrued.

Finally, the briefs explain how “sexual orientation is an innate human characteristic that deserves the full and equal protection of the law,” and ask the Supreme Court to uphold lower court rulings that Prop 8 and DOMA are unconstitutional.

GLMA recognizes Boston-based law firm, Sullivan and Worcester LLP, and partner Nick O’Donnell, for representing GLMA in these matters. GLMA also owes a debt of gratitude to past president Kate O’Hanlan for her significant contributions to the briefs.

Health and Marriage Equality
GLMA’s 2008 publication, Same-Sex Marriage and Health, documents the large body of scientific research indicating that the denial of marriage rights to gay men and lesbians can negatively impact their health and well-being and that of their children.

Hollingsworth v. Perry
After a narrow majority of California voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, taking away the freedom to marry from California same-sex couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights was formed to file a federal court challenge. In 2010, the US District Court of Northern California held a 13-day trial. On August 4, 2010, the District Court issued a sweeping and historic rulingthat Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. The decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

United States v. Windsor
Edie Windsor – represented by the ACLU and NYCLU – was forced to pay more than $360,000 in federal estate taxes after her beloved spouse Thea Spyer died in 2009. Edie and Thea were together for more than 40 years; after a decades-long engagement, they were finally able to legally marry two years before Thea’s death. If Edie and Thea had been a married straight couple, Edie would not have owed any estate taxes after Thea’s death. Edie challenged Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as between “a man and a woman” for federal laws and programs. A federal district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals declared DOMA unconstitutional.

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