Same-Sex Spouses Sue Federal Government Over Marriage-Related Benefits

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By Admin on March 04, 2009 9:12 AM

A number of same-sex spouses and widows who were legally married in Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that a 1996 federal law discriminates against married same-sex couples by limiting certain protections and benefits that are normally provided to married couples of the opposite sex.

The lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts federal court on Tuesday, by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), on behalf of eight same-sex couples and three surviving spouses who are (or were) legally married under a Massachusetts law that has been in place since 2004. According to the lawsuit, the couples and widows have applied for and been denied a number of federal benefits that hinge on marital status, including health benefits for spouses of U.S. Postal Service and Social Security Administration employees, marriage-related tax breaks from the IRS, and survivor annuities provided to widows of former members of the U.S. Congress. In denying the plaintiffs' requests for benefits, the lawsuit alleges, the defendant federal agencies and authorities "have stated that the federal government will only respect marriages between a man and a woman," citing a federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The Los Angeles Times reports: "Legal analysts predicted it will be years before the suit makes its way through the federal court system, but said they believed it had a good chance of eventually leading to the invalidation of the act's power to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation."