The New York State Bar Association has joined two amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," briefs that urge the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down restrictions on same-sex marriage.

"A nation that promises equal justice to all cannot sanction discrimination against any group of people," said State Bar President Seymour W. James, Jr. (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "The Defense of Marriage Act permits the federal government to deny gay and lesbian married couples the legal rights that it grants to heterosexual married couples. Such blatant discrimination violates the U.S. Constitution."

On March 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Windsor v. U.S. The case involves Edie Windsor, a New York woman who married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. After Spyer died, Windsor was required to pay federal estate taxes on her inheritance, because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages. The case challenges Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by defining "marriage" exclusively as the legal union between a man and a woman.

A day earlier, on March 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry. It challenges California's Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriages in the state. The case was brought by two same-sex couples who were denied wedding licenses under the law. The amicus brief argues that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution.

In reviewing the equal protection claims, the court should adopt a standard of heightened scrutiny, argue the briefs filed in both cases. "Gay people have experienced a long and painful history of deliberate discrimination and this discrimination is based on a factor unrelated to their ability to perform in or contribute to society."

In addition to the New York State Bar Association, the briefs were joined by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, various other bar associations, other human rights groups and legal service organizations. The briefs were prepared by Fulbright & Jaworski of Houston, Texas and Washington, D.C. 

Copies of both amicus curiae briefs are available at www.nysba.org/WindsorBrief and www.nysba.org/PerryBrief.

The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518-487-5530