Ten US senators on Monday filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] urging the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to uphold section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text], which denies federal recognition of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. The brief argues that the federal government had a legitimate interest in creating a uniform federal definition of marriage to "[avoid] massive legal uncertainty." The brief also argues that the district court incorrectly identified Congress's motivation for passing the bill as being based on "animus." The senators' brief addresses an appeal currently pending in the Ninth Circuit from a February decision of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. In that decision, Judge Jeffrey White ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional [JURIST report] because statutory classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny and DOMA is not "substantially related to an important governmental objective." The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the Ninth Circuit in September.
The bipartisan legal advisory group in charge of defending DOMA filed its brief [JURIST report] last week, defending section 3 of the act. The Obama administration petitioned [JURIST report] the Ninth Circuit appeals court in March for an expedited en banc review of this case. In its request for review, the Obama administration raised the question of "whether classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to rational basis review or instead demand heightened scrutiny under well-established equal protection principles." The request for expedited review came after the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional. House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) DOMA defense group took over the defense.of DOMA in court after the DOJ announced in February that it would no longer defend the legislation [JURIST reports].