For Immediate Release - November 03, 2011

Major Businesses and Employers Ask Appeals Court to Uphold Court Decision Striking Down DOMA

70 Leading National and State Companies and Employers Say DOMA Burdens Business

BOSTON – Seventy employers from Massachusetts and around the country filed an amicus brief today asking the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which prohibits federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples.  The AG’s Office argued and won this case in July 2010.

“The breadth of business and employer interests that have joined the brief is a powerful reflection of the widespread economic harm caused by this law,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “DOMA creates many burdens for businesses and employers from a cost, administrative, and morale perspective.  We appreciate the support of these leading businesses and associations in filing this brief and applaud their commitment to basic principles of fairness in the workplace.”

The amicus brief argues that DOMA, which forces employers to describe married same-sex spouses as unmarried for workplace rules and benefits creates “unnecessary cost and administrative complexity” for employers and forces them to discriminate against their own lawfully married employees.  Several of the entities signing this brief have taken steps to eliminate DOMA’s discriminatory effects, such as paying the additional income tax incurred by employees who seek to provide healthcare coverage to a same-sex spouse.  While these efforts are important, not all of DOMA’s harm can be undone and some of these initiatives can cause additional confusion and administrative burdens.

Last week, AG Coakley filed a brief with the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to uphold a district court ruling from last July that DOMA is unconstitutional. 

DOMA renders marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts invalid for all federal purposes.  It was ruled unconstitutional by the United States District Court in July 2010.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which represents the federal defendants sued by the Commonwealth, appealed that decision.  Since then, however, DOJ has announced that it also believes DOMA is a discriminatory and unconstitutional law.  DOMA is now being defended by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The District Court granted summary judgment to the Commonwealth in Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, et al. in July 2010, and to a group of plaintiff couples represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in a parallel equal protection challenge, Gill v. Office of Personnel Mgmt. The cases are now on appeal to the First Circuit.  The Commonwealth is asking the First Circuit to uphold the District Court’s ruling that DOMA interferes with state sovereign authority to determine marital status in violation of the Tenth Amendment, and that it forces the state to discriminate against married same-sex spouses in violation of equal protection principles.

Oral arguments are expected in the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals sometime in early 2012.

The lawsuit, filed in July 2009, alleged that DOMA, which affects more than 1,100 federal statutory provisions, violates the United States Constitution by interfering with the Commonwealth’s sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.  The complaint also alleged that DOMA exceeds Congress’s authority under the Spending Clause because Congress does not have a valid reason for requiring Massachusetts to treat married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples, and that it unlawfully requires Massachusetts to disregard valid marriages in its implementation of federally funded programs. 

Below is the entire list of amici that signed today’s brief. 

ABT Associates

Aetna, Inc.

Akamai Technologies, Inc.

Alere, Inc.

Biogen Idec, Inc.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Inc.

Bank of New York Mellon Corporation

Boston Community Capital, Inc.

Boston Medical Center Corp.

Bright Horizons Children’s Centers LLC

Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Inc.

Calvert Investments, Inc.

CBS Corporation

The Chubb Corporation

Communispace Corp.

Constellation Energy Group, Inc.

Diageo North America, Inc.

Eastern Bank Corp.

Exelon Corp.

FitCorp Healthcare Centers, Inc.

Gammelgarden, LLC

Google Inc.

Integrated Archive Systems, Inc.

Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC

Levi Strauss & Co.

Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge

Mass. Envelope Company, Inc.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Massachusetts Financial Services Company

Microsoft Corp.

National Grid USA, Inc.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.

New England Cryogenic Center, Inc.

NIKE, Inc.

The Ogilvy Group, Inc.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Partners HealthCare System, Inc.

Reproductive Science Center of New England

Skyworks Solutions, Inc.

Starbucks Corp.

State Street Bank and Trust Co.

Stonyfield Farm, Inc.

Sun Life Financial (U.S.) Services Co., Inc.

Time Warner Cable, Inc.

Trillium Asset Management Corp.

W/S Development Associates LLC

Xerox Corp.

Zipcar, Inc.

                        Law and professional firms:

Burns & Levinson LLP

Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP

Foley Hoag LLP

Goodwin Procter LLP

Goulston & Storrs, P.C.

McCarter & English LLP

Nixon Peabody LLP

Parthenon Group LLC

Salera Consulting [   ]

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Ropes & Gray LLP

                        Professional, trade and civic organizations:

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

The Boston Foundation

Massachusetts Association of Health Plans

Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Inc.

The National Fire Protection Association

Out & Equal

Retailers Association of Massachusetts

                        And by the following cities:

The City of Boston, MA

The City of Cambridge, MA

The City of New York, NY

The matter is being handled by Maura Healey, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, Jonathan Miller, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division, and Christopher K. Barry-Smith, Chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau.