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US lawmakers ask federal court to stay Defense of Marriage Act case

A group of Republican members of the US House of Representatives [official website] filed a memorandum [text, PDF] in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut [official website] on Wednesday, asking the district court to stay a case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] until a similar case in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] is decided. The memorandum urged the district court, which is a court in the Second Circuit, to refrain from ruling in the case Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management until the Second Circuit rules on the constitutionality of DOMA in a pending case, Windsor v. New York:

[T]his Court should stay the proceedings in the case pending a decision by the Second Circuit in Windsor because: The issue before this Court—the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause—is precisely the issue now before the Second Circuit in Windsor; a merits ruling by the Second Circuit in Windsor—or a ruling on Section 3's constitutionality by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts, should that occur first—clearly will inform, and likely will be fully dispositive of, this Court's disposition of Plaintiffs' equal protection claims in this case; and it appears likely that the Second Circuit will consider the Windsor appeal on an accelerated basis.
The House GOP leaders who filed the memorandum plan to ask the US Supreme Court [official website] to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA.

The specific provision in DOMA that many same-sex couples are challenging on due process and equal protection grounds is section 3, which defines marriage solely as between one man and one woman. DOMA has been the subject of great controversy recently in the ongoing debate about same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. Last week, 10 US senators filed a brief [JURIST report] urging the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to uphold section 3 of DOMA. Two weeks ago, a federal judge in New York ruled [JURIST report] that section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally violated the principles of federalism. In May, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] opined [JURIST report] that section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally infringed on a state's right to define marriage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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