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ADF submits brief on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman to protect marriage from latest legal assaults

DOJ refuses to vigorously defend federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1st Circuit, ADF steps in
“Just Who do We Think We Are?”

BOSTON — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys submitted a friend-of-the-court brief Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders have waged separate lawsuits challenging the federal protection of marriage as between one man and one woman.

“We need to focus on strengthening marriage, not changing it forever,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum. “The government is involved in protecting marriage, the union of one man and one woman, because it’s the government’s business to promote the best possible family environments. That’s why members of Congress and the American people they represent overwhelmingly support DOMA.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has chosen not to defend DOMA based on the well-established rationales that Congress cited when it passed the law.”

Last July, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, that DOMA was unconstitutional because it denied same-sex couples federal spousal benefits. Judge Tauro ruled on the same day in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that DOMA was also unconstitutional because the government can’t deny Massachusetts particular funding for same-sex couples “married” within the commonwealth.   

“Filing this brief on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith should send a strong message to the First Circuit that Congress and the American citizens recognize society’s ‘deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child rearing,’ which DOMA was enacted to uphold,” said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Every appellate court in the country to address this question has held that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman does not violate the federal constitution. We are hopeful that the First Circuit will do the same.” 

ADF asserts that the brief was filed to provide an adequate defense of the law because the U.S. Department of Justice has disavowed Congress’s rationales for passing DOMA--rationales that the DOJ had successfully used to defend DOMA under previous administrations.  Last October, ADF attorneys filed a motion to intervene in both suits on behalf of Congressman Smith. However, after the DOJ appealed, ADF withdrew its motion so that Smith could defend the law through a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 1st Circuit.

The federal DOMA passed in 1996 by an overwhelming majority of 342–67 in the House and 85–14 in the Senate and was then signed by President Bill Clinton. Forty-five states also have laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Voters in all 30 states that have sought to affirm marriage as one man and one woman in their state constitutions have overwhelmingly done so. 

  • Pronunciation guide: Raum (RAHM’), Schowengerdt (SHOW’-in-gurt)


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.