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The Empire

AG Schneiderman joins suit against DOMA

  (Courtesy of the Attorney General's office)

New York continues to be at the center of the national debate over same-sex marriages, after New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a friend-of-the-court brief today arguing the unconstitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act clearly violates the principle of equal justice under law as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and improperly intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage,” Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement. “The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue My office will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”

Schneiderman has been vocal in his support of same-sex marriage rights, and will be defending the state senate Republican's vote to allow same-sex marriage in New York against a lawsuit filed New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms yesterday. Rev. Jason J. McGuire of NYCF said the AG's move today put him in an "interesting position."

"I think it does put the attorney general in the smack dab in the middle,” McGuire said.

Donna Lieberman, the New York Civil Liberties Union's executive director, called the move "significant" and a continuation of Schneiderman's work as a legislator and candidate for attorney general.

"The attorney general’s decision to weigh in on the DOMA case compliments the political leadership New York has taken enacting the Marriage Equality Act," Lieberman said. "It helps establish the popular support for marriage equality and helps change the conversation."

Specifics from the attorney general's office on today's filing:

Schneiderman filed the papers in federal court in support of the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in the case of Windsor v. United States. The plaintiff, Edie Windsor, was married in Canada in 2007 to her partner, Thea Spyer, who died two years later.

Following Spyer’s death, the federal government refused to acknowledge the couple’s marriage under DOMA and taxed the resulting inheritance accordingly. Windsor then filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and seeking a refund of the estate taxes she was forced to pay as a result of the federal government’s refusal to recognize her marriage.

In the amicus curiae brief, Schneiderman argues that in redefining the term marriage, Section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, and must therefore be invalidated. He goes on to argue that the statute is an improper intrusion on the traditional role of states in defining marriage; that it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation and therefore must be subjected to heightened scrutiny; and that DOMA fails any level of scrutiny because it does not advance any legitimate federal interest.

Disclosure: Schneiderman’s father, Irwin Schneiderman, is a member of the WNYC Board of Trustees and has been a long-time donor to the station.