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Over 70 cities and corporation file amicus brief against DOMA in Golinski case

DOMA trials Golinski

By Jacob Combs

Updated with a link to the full brief.

The Seattle Times reported earlier this week that the city of Seattle is joining seven other cities in opposing the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in court in the case of Golinski v. OPM.  In a new brief filed on Tuesday, over 70 business and municipal employers urged the Ninth Circuit to uphold a district court’s ruling that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution, specifically addressing the impact that the law has on employers in the way it forces them to discriminate against their own workers:

The House of Representatives argues that Congress, through DOMA, sought to impose a uniform rule of eligibility for federal marital benefits.3    The perspective of the American employer who must implement DOMA is very different. Because marriages are celebrated and recognized under state law, a federal law withholding marital benefits from some lawful marriages, but not others, creates a non-uniform rule. Employers are obliged to treat one employee spouse differently from another, when each is married, and each marriage is equally lawful. In this brief, amici show how the burden of DOMA’s dual regime is keenly felt by enterprises that conduct operations or do business in jurisdictions that authorize or recognize same-sex marriage.

Joining Seattle in the brief were the cities of San Francisco, New York, Boston, Cambridge, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and West Hollywood and a wide range of major businesses, among them Levi Strauss, Microsoft, McGraw-Hill, CBS, Starbucks, eBay, Xerox, Viacom, Gap and Google.

What makes the new Golinski brief so powerful is that it addresses specifically the ways that DOMA harms American businesses by straining the relationship between employers and employees and interfering with companies’ efforts to create transparent, fair work places.  As the companies wrote in the brief, “DOMA forces amici to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully- married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-sex spouse,” requiring businesses to incur the cost of providing fair and equal benefits to their gay and lesbian employees should they choose to do so.

Perhaps even more significantly, the new brief argues that DOMA essentially prohibit companies from conducting business according to their own corporate missions and instead forces them to affirm discrimination that they disagree with.  As the amici brief concludes:

Our principles are not platitudes.  Our mission statements are not simply plaques in the lobby.  Statements of principle are our agenda for success: born of corporate experience, tested in laboratory, factory, and office, attuned to competition.  Our principles reflect, in the truest sense, our business judgment.  By force of law, DOMA would rescind that judgment, and direct that we renounce these principles, or worse yet betray them.”

If this employers’ brief demonstrates anything, it shows just how short-sighted and narrow the determination to pass DOMA was in the first place.  Congress put the law into place with minimal research and fact-finding,  doing it merely to set in stone a government-dictated restriction predicated upon the prevailing morals of the day.

But American society and American business have changed since 1996.  Today, over 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies protect their gay and lesbian employees from discrimination.  Overwhelmingly, American business is of the belief that gays and lesbians should be treated equally to heterosexuals.  It’s past time for our government to do the same.


  • 1. 415kathleenk  |  July 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I'm an employee of the University of California, San Francisco. They've long had generous and equitable domestic partners benefits- transated into spousal benefits when we were married in the summer of 2008. The vast UC system employees thousands of LGBT people. While UC didn't file an amicus brief, i;m sure the higher ups agree in principle. As a SF resident and UC employee, i do not have the everday discrimination in my life that other people in other parts of the country may face but i;m reminded every time i look at my pay statement and see the taxation of dp benefits just how much of second class citizen i still am, at least in the eyes of the federal government. Down with DOMA, please. And soon.

  • 2. BradK  |  July 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

    "…Levi Strauss, Microsoft, McGraw-Hill, CBS, Starbucks, eBay, Xerox, Viacom, Gap and Google"

    Looks like NOM has got some boycott'in to do! After their huge success with the DumpStarbucks initiative (45,713 suckers in just 4 months — that'll show 'em), I can't wait to see what they do to the rest of these targets.

  • 3. _BK_  |  July 12, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Boycott Seattle! (Now I would absolutely LOVE that idea. Real-estate companies could then advertise "bigot-free housing areas"…)

  • 4. truthspew  |  July 12, 2012 at 9:22 am

    In my career I've worked for the State of RI twice and had full benefits, Dell and had full benefits, and Brown University which offered full benefits. The corporate and educational world is with us. It's the churches – mainly the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormons that are the big issue.

  • 5. Sagesse  |  July 12, 2012 at 9:36 am


  • 6. Over 70 cities file amicu&hellip  |  July 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

    […] Prop 8 Trial Tracker » Over 70 cities and corporation file amicus brief against DOMA in Golinski ca…. ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggRedditTumblrPinterestStumbleUponLinkedInPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  • 7. 415kathleenk  |  July 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

    i would agree with that. The politicians, even the right wing ones I think are not, in principal opposed to marriage equality ( not all of them) but they are sure scared of their religious and right wing constituents. If we could get the churches to butt out of civil marriage, it would be much easier!

  • 8. sfbob  |  July 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Does anyone have a link to the actual amicus brief? It's referenced above and in the Seattle Times article but I can't seem to locate the brief itself.

  • 9. Mark B.  |  July 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

    <img src=""/&gt; I guess they do it differrently in California.<img src=""/&gt;

  • 10. davep  |  July 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Yes, that would be great! That quote from the conclusion is REALLY good and I'd like to read the whole thing if possible.

  • 11. Jacob Combs  |  July 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Just updated it so that you can! Meant to do that this morning but it slipped my mind.

  • 12. Mike in Baltimore  |  July 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Except Seattle is not in California. Nor is New York City.

    And last I heard, Boston and Cambridge are located in Massachusetts (unless you are speaking of the Cambridge in Maryland?)

  • 13. karen in kalifornia  |  July 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Love reading the brief which is written from the viewpoint of employers being forced to stand on their heads to both do the right thing (treat ss relationships the same as hetero) and follow DOMA.

    For my union health care coverage for my spouse not only do I pay Federal tax on the value of the coverage but it turns out I also "reimburse" my union plan for their share of SS and FCIA they pay. Of course my quarterly "tax bill" to the union plan doesn't point this out. I only found out after I got my first W2 and when the math didn't add up, some unsuspecting helpful person in accounting inadvertently explained the double charge to me.

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