[NOTE: This post was updated throughout Tuesday evening.]
In a move expected by most legal observers, the U.S. Department of Justice this afternoon filed notices of appeal in two cases striking down the federal definition of marriage, contained in the Defense of Marriage Act, as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro had ruled on July 8 in the cases, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional on several grounds, finding that the marriage definition violated the equal protection and due process guarantees, as well as the Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which argued the Gill case on behalf of the plaintiffs, issued a statement moments after the government's filing.
"We fully expected an appeal and are more than ready to meet it head on," Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director, said in the statement. "DOMA brings harm to families like our plaintiffs every day, denying married couples and their children basic protections like health insurance, pensions, and Social Security benefits. We are confident in the strength of our case."
The White House issued no comment on the filing and directed questions to DOJ.
The filing of the notice means that the record of the trial court case will be sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Once the record is complete, DOJ will have 40 days to file its brief. GLAD or Massachusetts, depending on the case, will then have 30 days to file its brief. The government then has 14 days to file a reply brief.
Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole said in an email to Metro Weekly, "While most advocates including GLAD expected the administration would appeal the DOMA cases, we remain disappointed and frustrated that they continue to defend a law that serves no purpose but to harm our families. However, GLAD and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley have already made an unassailable case against DOMA. We are confident they will prevail."
Within hours of the filing of the notices of appeal, the head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, spoke at the LGBT Heritage Day Celebration in Cleveland, Ohio.
Focusing primarily on the importance of enforcement of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to DOJ’s mission, Perez did not mention the DOMA cases or the challenge to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in his remarks.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips halted all enforcement of DADT by issuing a permanent injunction in the Log Cabin Republicans v. United States case.
Josh Williams contributed to this report from Cleveland. The full statement from GLAD can be found below the jump.
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Department of Justice will Appeal GLAD’s Victory in DOMA Lawsuit
Today, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in the case of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the challenge brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Representing seven married same-sex couples and three widowers, GLAD filed Gill in March 2009. The case was heard in May 2010 by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro, who issued a decision finding DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional on July 8, 2010.
“We fully expected an appeal and are more than ready to meet it head on,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director. “DOMA brings harm to families like our plaintiffs every day, denying married couples and their children basic protections like health insurance, pensions, and Social Security benefits. We are confident in the strength of our case.”
The case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The next step will be for the government to file its brief to that court arguing that Judge Tauro’s ruling was wrong. GLAD will then file its brief in opposition to the government, and finally the government will file a reply brief. At that point, the appeal will be scheduled for oral argument. Briefing could be concluded by the spring of 2011 with oral argument to follow by the fall of 2011.
The government also today filed its notice of appeal in the related case Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Department of Health and Human Services.