GLAD and Foley Hoag Secure Victory in Federal District Court

July 8, 2010

Lawyers at Foley Hoag LLP in conjunction with GLAD and co-counsel from two law firms today secured a win in the first concerted, multi-plaintiff challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional with respect to claims brought by seven married same-sex couples and three widowers from Massachusetts. Under the ruling, the plaintiffs are entitled to the same federal spousal benefits and protections as every other married couple.

The suit, Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management et al., challenged the denial of certain federal rights and protections to same-sex married couples.  Each of the plaintiffs is, or was until becoming a widower, legally married to a person of the same sex under Massachusetts law.  Today’s win addresses the use of Section 3 of DOMA to deny same-sex married couples and surviving spouses vital rights and benefits, including Social Security benefits, federal income tax protections, and federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits.

The court found that DOMA “sunder[s] the class of state-sanctioned marriages into two, those that are valid for federal purposes and those that are not.”  The court also found that Congress “undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves.”  Thus, the court concluded, “As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

A copy of the decision can be found here.

The Foley Hoag Lawyers working on the case include Claire Laporte and Vickie Henry, both partners at the firm, and associates Matthew Miller, Amy Senier, Catherine Deneke, and Stacy Anderson.

Foley Hoag’s pro bono program has been a hallmark of the firm since its representation of the plaintiffs in the 1970s lawsuit that brought desegregation to the Boston public schools.  The firm is consistently top-ranked in The American Lawyer’s Pro Bono Report appearing in the top quartile this year.  Lawyers at the firm are encouraged to engage in pro bono work and other community activities. In a typical year, the firm devotes more than 20,000 hours to pro bono causes.

About GLAD

GLAD is New England’s leading organization devoted to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

About Foley Hoag LLP

Foley Hoag provides innovative, strategic legal services to public, private and government clients across the globe. We have premier capabilities in the life sciences, healthcare, technology, energy, professional services and investment management fields, and in cross-border disputes. Our professionals  possess the skills  and experience to provide exceptional senior level service to clients ranging from startups to multinational companies to sovereign states. For more information, visit www.foleyhoag.com or follow @FoleyHoag on Twitter.