February 28, 2013
Attorney General's Office
Augusta, Me – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills has agreed to sign on to two separate friend-of-the-court briefs that urge the U.S. Supreme Court strike down laws that discriminate against same-sex couples. Maine has joined an amicus brief, filed today, asking the Court to declare California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Maine has also signed on to a second amicus brief that will be filed tomorrow, urging the Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Equal protection under the law is the bedrock on which America’s legal foundation is built,” said Attorney General Mills. “I am troubled by the notion that a state might declare that one group of Americans can be accorded the benefits of civil marriage, but another group of Americans is not. I was proud that Maine voters were the first to approve marriage equality at the ballot box last November and I am proud to join this effort to ensure that more people in America can have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. I hope the Supreme Court will grant all married couples the benefits of federal tax, retirement, social security and other benefits.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Proposition 8’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The amicus brief was filed today by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144). The brief contends that Proposition 8 does violate the Equal Protection Clause and that the Court should declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The case is scheduled for oral argument on March 26.
Proposition 8 amended the California state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. California voters approved the measure by ballot initiative in November 2008 after a California Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry. The amicus brief includes a total of 13 states and the District of Columbia. The state are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The Attorney General of California filed a separate brief in support of equal marriage rights.
The brief refutes speculation offered by the proponents of Proposition 8 as to the negative effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The brief also argues that Proposition 8 actually harms families by denying the multitude of legal and social benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their children.
The brief argues that “Proposition 8 deprives the children of same-sex couples of the benefits of being raised in a secure, protected family unit with two married parents. In doing so, it works against the states’ efforts to ‘strengthen the modern family in its many variations,” citing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Maine is also joining a brief to be filed Friday by Attorney General Coakley, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of all federal laws. That case has been scheduled for oral argument in the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013.
This amicus brief is being joined by at least 16 other states, including New York, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The case was brought by New York resident Edie Windsor, who was married in Canada in 2007 to her partner, Thea Spyer. Following Spyer’s death two years later, the federal government denied Windsor the estate tax exemption available to surviving spouses. Windsor filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and seeking a refund of the estate taxes she was forced to pay as a result of the federal government’s refusal to recognize her marriage.
The amicus brief argues that DOMA is a significant departure from Congress’s more than 200 years of deference to all state marriage determinations and warrants closer review by the Supreme Court. In addition to highlighting many examples of DOMA undermining other federal laws by excluding protections to same-sex spouses, the brief contends that none of the arguments offered by those defending DOMA are legitimate bases for sustaining it.
“DOMA is an unwarranted intrusion into states’ rights and denies equal protection under the law,” said Attorney General Mills. “The State of Maine has declared that same sex couples have a right to civil marriage under the law and the federal government should not subject these people to discriminatory treatment.”