July 10, 5:07 PM click here to comment > 4
City joins effort to challenge federal “Defense of Marriage Act”
City Attorney Pete Holmes, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and Mayor Mike McGinn announced that the City of Seattle formally supported an amicus brief to be filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). They were joined by City employee Ken Molsberry and his husband Chris, who have faced the financial and emotional consequences of DOMA on their lives for many years.
Ken Molsberry speaks about the impact of DOMA on his family
“The City decided to sign an amicus brief in part because we are currently required by federal law to tax employees in same-sex relationships for the value of their health insurance, while opposite-sex couples do not pay tax on those benefits. In addition, the City must pay payroll taxes on the value of these benefits as if the benefits are wages earned by employees in same sex relationships.” Holmes said. “More fundamentally, we are joining large and small, public and private entities across the country that recognize that DOMA serves no good purpose – it just forces employers to treat valued employees unfairly, by denying them equality in important family resources such as COBRA, Social Security benefits and pensions.”
Holmes continued, “Legally speaking, there’s a clear financial interest for the City. Just like any employer, we’d like to have clear, simple rules for how we provide benefits to our employees. We want to treat the health insurance we provide to same-sex domestic partners and families just like we do for opposite-sex married people, so that we can free up more money to put to other uses. But we’ve also signed on to the brief for the simple reason that we believe government should treat everyone the same.”
“The federal ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ is an unconstitutional and discriminatory law,” said McGinn. “I am pleased that the City is standing together for the law’s invalidation.”
“The City of Seattle has a strong interest in ensuring all individuals and families receive just treatment under laws that appropriately recognize the rights and dignity of all our people. I’m glad the City Attorney’s Office has added Seattle’s support to such a well-reasoned brief,” said Council President Sally Clark.
“It’s time for DOMA to go,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “Our city has a long history of opposing all forms of discrimination. And I am proud that our City Attorney is helping fight for that same equality across the country.”
The city of Seattle signed the amicus brief with numerous other municipalities and corporations, supporting the constitutional challenge to the legality of DOMA. The City is listed as a participant in order to support overturning DOMA so that employers in states with same sex marriage laws can provide employees and their spouses with the same benefits as employees and spouses in opposite sex marriages. By signing the brief, the City is taking the position publicly that the lower court’s decision to repeal DOMA is correct and should be affirmed.
Photo by: April Thomas
Posted by: April Thomas