May 31, 2012

Jenner & Block played a prominent role in a groundbreaking ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in the nationwide legal fight over same-sex marriage.  The Court ruled 3-0 on May 31, 2012, in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines the term “marriage” as being between a man and a woman when the term is used in all federal statutes, is unconstitutional.  Jenner & Block clients Nancy Gill and Dean Hara as well as other plaintiffs said the law, which prevents them from filing joint federal tax returns or collecting Social Security survivor benefits, denied them equal protections guaranteed under the Constitution.

Jenner & Block worked pro bono with the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders organization (GLAD) and two other law firms, helping to draft the briefs and participating in development of the strategy for the case.  Partner Paul M. Smith led the team which included Partner Luke C. Platzer and Associates Matthew J. Dunne and Melissa A. Cox.

According to Judge Michael Boudin, who wrote for the three-judge panel, “Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.”

This marks the first time that a federal appeals court has found DOMA unconstitutional.  This  decision reaffirms the federal district court ruling that all married couples and surviving spouses deserve the same opportunities to have their marriages recognized under federal programs like Social Security, health insurance for federal workers, and income taxation.

The decision received widespread media coverage nationally.  Mr. Smith was quoted in a Reuters article titled “Court says U.S. marriage law discriminates against gay couples.”  Click here to read the story.