Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management
Section 3 of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, violates the equal-protection rights of individuals who are married to individuals of the same sex, because it defines "marriage" as "a legal union between one man and one woman," and "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." Allegedly, plaintiff Joanne Pedersen, a retired civilian worker of the Department of Navy, Office of Naval Intelligence, was informed that her wife could not be added to her federal health plan, because she is the same sex as Pedersen. Another plaintiff, Attorney Damon Savoy, was informed that he could not add his husband to his federal health plan. Because homosexuals have suffered a long history of invidious discrimination and continue to suffer pervasive discrimination in the political arena, classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to heightened judicial scrutiny. Although homosexuals merit recognition as a suspect classification, the District Court applied a rational basis review, which requires a rational relationship between disparity of treatment and a legitimate government purpose. The District Court was not persuaded that DOMA's denial of federal marital benefits to same-sex married couples discourages extra-marital procreation or encourages dual-gendered parenting. A legislative scheme that provides certain benefits to heterosexual married couples with children, and not to homosexual married couples with children, bears no rational relationship to the objective of promoting married relationships as the ideal environment in which to raise children. DOMA affects thousands of federal statutes and regulations, many of which are unrelated to raising children. It does not prevent same-sex couples from adopting. "DOMA's sweeping scope," wrote the court, "belies any rational relationship to the purported objective of promoting dual-gendered parenting." The court also rejected claims that DOMA helps to protect scarce government resources. The Congressional Budget Office opined that federal recognition of same-sex couples would actually increase federal revenue. It is irrational to claim that DOMA simplifies the administration of federal marital benefits. It adds complexity, because DOMA requires the government to identify and to exclude same sex unions. The court issued a declaratory judgment that DOMA violates equal-protection principles.