Press Releases

Washington—Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Ranking House Constitution Subcommittee Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Ranking House Judiciary Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), are filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.

Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding legally married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. A total of 40 Senators and 172 members of the House signed onto the brief.

These 212 members decided to participate as amici in this case because they want the Supreme Court to hear the full story from Congress, and to explain why they believe that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. They disagree with the arguments being made by lawyers hired to defend DOMA in court by the House Majority following the divided 3-2 vote of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG).

The amicus brief filed today makes clear that BLAG does not speak for Congress and that many members believe that Section 3 should be struck down because there simply is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to all other married couples. As the brief explains: “DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples.”

In Edith “Edie” Windsor’s case, the federal government taxed Edie more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009. The couple, constituents of Rep. Nadler in New York City, first met in 1965 and married in 2007, after an engagement that lasted more than 40 years. Yet, when Thea died, the federal government treated them as complete strangers because of DOMA, significantly reducing Edie’s inheritance by denying her protections from the estate tax that other married couples receive.

Edie, who is now 83 years old, challenged DOMA as a violation of equal protection. The federal district court in New York City and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee.

The members’ brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit’s decision. It adds the unique perspective of Members of Congress – including some who voted against DOMA and others who voted for it – about the enactment of DOMA and why Section 3 is unconstitutional.

Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in nine states and the District of Columbia, and 18,000 such couples remain legally married in California. It is clear that DOMA does not rationally serve and, in fact, undermines, Congress’s legitimate interests in the welfare of American families.

As the Congressional amici point out to the court: “The goal of maximizing the financial well-being and independence of widows is not furthered by depriving Edie Windsor and others like her of the estate-tax exemption that other married Americans receive. The policy of encouraging employers to provide family health benefits is not served either by denying to employers the tax deduction for providing those benefits to married gay and lesbian couples or by refusing to cover spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees. Our national security is undermined by denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers, especially during periods of armed conflict. Our veterans are dishonored when we deny them the right to have their spouses buried alongside them in our national cemeteries.”

Full text of amicus brief

The full list of signatories follows:

Lead signatories:

Nancy Pelosi
Steny H. Hoyer
James E. Clyburn
Jerrold Nadler
John Conyers, Jr.
Harry Reid
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer
Patty Murray
Dianne Feinstein
Patrick J. Leahy
Jared Polis
David N. Cicilline
Sean Patrick Maloney
Mark Pocan
Kyrsten Sinema
Mark Takano


Tammy Baldwin
Michael F. Bennet
Richard Blumenthal
Barbara Boxer
Sherrod Brown
Maria Cantwell
Benjamin Cardin
Thomas R. Carper
Christopher Coons
William “Mo” Cowan
Al Franken
Kirsten Gillibrand
Tom Harkin
Martin Heinrich
Mazie K. Hirono
Tim Kaine
Angus S. King, Jr.
Amy Klobuchar
Frank R. Lautenberg
Claire McCaskill
Robert Menendez
Jeff Merkley
Barbara A. Mikulski
Christopher S. Murphy
Patty Murray
Bernie Sanders
Brian Schatz
Charles E. Schumer
Jeanne Shaheen
Debbie Stabenow
Jon Tester
Mark Udall
Mark R. Warner
Elizabeth Warren
Sheldon Whitehouse
Ron Wyden


Robert E. Andrews
Ron Barber
Karen Bass
Joyce Beatty
Xavier Becerra
Ami Bera
Timothy H. Bishop
Earl Blumenauer
Suzanne Bonamici
Robert A. Brady
Bruce L. Braley
Corinne Brown
Julia Brownley
Cheri Bustos
Lois Capps
Michael E. Capuano
Tony Cárdenas
John C. Carney, Jr.
André Carson
Matthew A. Cartwright
Kathy Castor
Joaquin Castro
Judy Chu
Yvette D. Clarke
Wm. Lacy Clay
Emanuel Cleaver
Steve Cohen
Gerald E. Connolly
Joe Courtney
Joseph Crowley
Elijah E. Cummings
Danny K. Davis
Susan A. Davis
Diana DeGette
John K. Delaney
Rosa L. DeLauro
Suzan K. DelBene
Theodore E. Deutch
John D. Dingell
Lloyd Doggett
Michael F. Doyle
Tammy Duckworth
Donna F. Edwards
Keith Ellison
Eliot L. Engel
Anna G. Eshoo
Elizabeth H. Esty
Sam Farr
Chaka Fattah
Bill Foster
Lois Frankel
Marcia L. Fudge
Tulsi Gabbard
John Garamendi
Joe Garcia
Alan Grayson
Al Green
Raúl M. Grijalva
Luis V. Gutierrez
Janice Hahn
Colleen W. Hanabusa
Alcee L. Hastings
Denny Heck
Brian Higgins
James A. Himes
Rush Holt
Michael M. Honda
Steven A. Horsford
Jared Huffman
Steve Israel
Sheila Jackson Lee
Hakeem S. Jeffries
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.
Marcy Kaptur
William R. Keating
Joseph P. Kennedy III
Daniel T. Kildee
Derek Kilmer
Ann Kirkpatrick
Ann M. Kuster
James R. Langevin
John B. Larson
Barbara Lee
Sander M. Levin
John Lewis
David Loebsack
Zoe Lofgren
Alan S. Lowenthal
Nita M. Lowey
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Daniel B. Maffei
Carolyn B. Maloney
Edward J. Markey
Doris O. Matsui
Carolyn McCarthy
Betty McCollum
Jim McDermott
James P. McGovern
Jerry McNerney
Gregory W. Meeks
Grace Meng
Michael H. Michaud
George Miller
Gwen Moore
James P. Moran
Patrick Murphy
Grace F. Napolitano
Richard E. Neal
Gloria Negrete McLeod
Richard M. Nolan
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Beto O’Rourke
William L. Owens
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Ed Pastor
Donald M. Payne, Jr.
Ed Perlmutter
Gary C. Peters
Scott H. Peters
Chellie Pingree
David E. Price
Mike Quigley
Charles B. Rangel
Lucille Roybal-Allard
Raul Ruiz
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger
Bobby L. Rush
Tim Ryan
Linda T. Sánchez
Loretta Sanchez
John P. Sarbanes
Janice D. Schakowsky
Adam B. Schiff
Bradley S. Schneider
Allyson Y. Schwartz
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
José E. Serrano
Carol Shea-Porter
Brad Sherman
Albio Sires
Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Adam Smith
Jackie Speier
Eric Swalwell
Mike Thompson
John F. Tierney
Dina Titus
Paul Tonko
Niki Tsongas
Chris Van Hollen
Juan Vargas
Marc A. Veasey
Nydia M. Velázquez
Timothy J. Walz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Maxine Waters
Henry A. Waxman
Peter Welch
John A. Yarmuth