WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) applauded the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today that a core section of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married gay and lesbian couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections. The Court also ruled that the proponents of California's Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in that state, did not have the right to appeal the 2010 decision striking down the measure.
"The Supreme Court's rulings today mark an extraordinary moment in our fight for marriage equality," said Sen. Heinrich. "Gay and lesbian couples who accept the responsibility of marriage should have all the rights that come with that responsibility. Depriving those rights is to deprive Americans of their dignity and the promise of equal treatment guaranteed by the Constitution. These cases are a historic step forward, but we must continue our march toward full equality for all Americans."
In March, Senator Heinrich joined members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, the landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
The Congressional amici point out to the court: "The goal of maximizing the financial well-being and independence of widows is not furthered by depriving Edie Windsor and others like her of the estate-tax exemption that other married Americans receive. The policy of encouraging employers to provide family health benefits is not served either by denying to employers the tax deduction for providing those benefits to married gay and lesbian couples or by refusing to cover spouses of gay and lesbian federal employees. Our national security is undermined by denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian service members, especially during periods of armed conflict. Our veterans are dishonored when we deny them the right to have their spouses buried alongside them in our national cemeteries."