Challenging DOMA: Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management

Uploaded by GLADvideo on 07.11.2010

In July 2010, the Federal District Court judge ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional and, so
far, the federal government is not recognizing the valid marriages of gay and lesbian couples
in Massachusetts. And that there is no rational reason for stripping gay and lesbian married
couples of all of the protections and also the responsibilities that come with marriage
under federal law.
GLAD is keeping the pressure on by filing a second DOMA case, this time on behalf of
five couples and one widower. These are folks who are married in their homes states of Connecticut,
Vermont, and New Hampshire and, once again, we have found DOMA causing harm to married
people. DOMA essentially requires that gay and lesbian married couples fall through the
federal safety net that is supposed to be there for married folks.
In this new case, we show just how broad DOMA is. So, for example, we represent two women
from Vermont, one of whom is a postal worker who applied for leave from work under the
Family Medical Leave Act in order to take care of her spouse through knee surgery, as
well as other treatments she needs relating back to an injury she sustained in the military.
And FMLA leave was denied. Lynda DeForge was not able to be there for her spouse Raquel
Ardin in the same way other spouses can be there for one another.
And we represent a gentleman in Connecticut named Jerry Passaro. Jerry was with his partner,
Tom, for twelve years. They married in the month marriage became available in Connecticut
in November of 2008. But unfortunately, two months later, Tom died of lymphoma. Tom had
worked as a chemist for a company and had invested in the pension plan there, but because
of DOMA, and only because of DOMA, Jerry can't get the survivor benefits on Tom's pension.
And Jerry needs those benefits to live.
DOMA means federal employees are unable to procure even health insurance for their spouses.
We are litigating that in Massachusetts, as well as in this new case. We are litigating
the issues of Social Security benefits, and survivor benefits, death benefits, spousal
benefits, to make sure that once you've paid into the system, it's there for you when you
need it: when you are in your older years or have actually lost a spouse. And, as before,
we are also litigating the issue of federal income taxes, believing that people should
pay the same amount of taxes when they're identically situated. And you shouldn't have
to pay more taxes simply because you're a gay or lesbian married couple.
We're representing Bradley Kleinerman and Flint Gehre from Avon, Connecticut. Brad and
Flint moved here from California because they love Connecticut and wanted raise their three
boys here. These are three boys who they adopted in California through the foster care system
and have been devoted to them ever since. So devoted, in fact, that Flint gave up his
career as first a police officer and then a teacher to be there and be a full-time dad.
DOMA imposes essentially a tax penalty on them of over $1500 a year because they are
not allowed to file as married. That $1500 a year is money that could be much better
spent on their three sons.
We represent Joanne Pederson and Ann Meitzen. Joanne worked for the better part of three
decades in federal service, most of which was with the Department of Naval Intellience
where she worked a a civilian. She, like other retired federal employees, wants to be able
to put her spouse on her health insurance. And it's very consequential to them because
Ann, at age 60, has developed a very rare lung problem that makes it extremely difficult
for her to work. They would like Ann to be able to have health coverage through Joanne,
so that Ann could at least work part-time. She loves her job. She wants to keep working.
But to work full-time, just to get health insurance, is a burden on them. And it's a
burden they shouldn't have and wouldn't have, but for DOMA.
DOMA affects people from all walks of life. We found that in our Massachusetts case and
we are finding it here as well. All these people are working people. They all need the
protections the government provides for married folks. These are important benefits for people:
Social Security; paying only your fair share of income tax; as a federal employee, having
access to health insurance and other benefits for your spouse on the job. And, of course,
these other benefits like family medical leave, the federal pension laws. These are also extremely
consequential as a practical matter in people's daily lives and that's why we're here. DOMA
is hurting real people and we want to keep the pressure on to make sure the courts declare
in unconstitutional and inoperative at the soonest possible date.