Hogan Lovells Filed Multiple Amicus Briefs in Landmark Marriage Equality Cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. 28 JUNE 2013 – Building on Hogan Lovells’ longstanding commitment to the advancement of civil rights for all Americans, the firm filed multiple amicus briefs in the landmark marriage equality cases United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, each decided by the Supreme Court on June 26, the last day of its Term.

One team of lawyers, led by Chris Handman (partner, Washington, D.C.) and Dom Perella (associate, Washington, D.C.), drafted an amicus brief on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League in support of the respondents in Perry.  This brief, joined by 18 other amici, argued that religious and moral disapproval are illegitimate justifications for upholding California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment providing that “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

A second team, led by Appellate practice group Co-Director Cate Stetson (partner, Washington, D.C.), along with Erica Knievel Songer (associate, Washington, D.C.), and Mary Helen Wimberly (associate, Washington, D.C.), filed briefs for the Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association in support of the respondents both in Perry and in Windsor, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 provided a federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and denied many federal benefits to married same-sex couples. The Perry and Windsor amici briefs provided a detailed history of the severe discrimination gay men and lesbians have faced in myriad aspects of life over the past century and chronicled the pernicious discriminatory treatment that continues to this day.

In addition, Sheree Kanner (partner, Washington, D.C.), and Marcy Wilder (partner, Washington, D.C.) consulted on an amicus brief filed by former Cabinet secretaries, commissioners, and senior administrative agency officials in Windsor.  This brief discredited the notion that DOMA is justified by the federal government’s interest in having a uniform definition of marriage in the administration of federal programs, as federal agencies routinely have looked to disparate state marriage laws when administering federal programs.

The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed Perry, with a 5-4 majority concluding that the defenders of Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal the trial court’s decision striking down the amendment; the Court’s decision has the effect of letting that trial-court decision stand.  A different 5-4 majority of the Court struck down the DOMA provision under challenge, concluding that it violated the constitutional rights of legally married gays and lesbians.

“On the federal level, DOMA is no more; the federal government will have to dismantle the many programs, codified or enforced in practice, that discriminate against legally married gays and lesbians.  On the state level, California’s Proposition 8 is no more – but the Court’s ruling potentially leaves power in the hands of state officials to enforce, or decline to enforce, state laws with which they disagree,” opined Stetson. “And on the Supreme Court level, all eyes remain on Justice Kennedy.  With Perry dismissed, an army of pundits awaits Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the next case – a merits challenge to a state anti-gay-marriage law – to learn which of his developing narratives wins out in the end:  states’ rights, or human rights.”

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