Council Stands Up for Marriage Equality
At the request of Jim Splaine, City Councilors unanimously sign on to amicus brief for landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that will address Defense of Marriage Act.
Former state lawmaker Jim Splaine, who led the push for marriage equality in New Hampshire four years ago, asked the City Council on Tuesday night to sign on to a legal effort to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act that will go before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27.
Without any debate, the council unanimously voted to sign on to an amicus brief that will be presented to the high court that will express that the city of Portsmouth believes the federal law that discriminates against gay and lesbian couples needs to be struck down.
“DOMA really does hurt people, hurts lives.” said Splaine. “I would be very proud if the City of Portsmouth chose to fight DOMA in the United States Supreme Court.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union website, the case is Windsor v. the United States. Edie Windsor filed a lawsuit challenging DOMA after her partner passed away and she could not inherit her partner's estate without being taxed because the federal government did not recognize their marriage.
Splaine also told the council that Portsmouth needs to stand up for its gay and lesbian citizens who are affected by DOMA. He said that 173 same-gender marriage licenses have been issued by Portsmouth City Hall since House Bill 436, the gay marriage bill he sponsored that became law on Jan. 1, 2010, went into effect.
"That's a large share of the 2,234 same-gender marriages celebrated statewide during that time. Those marriages by our residents – as are the 100,000 same-gender marriages in New Hampshire and the other eight states that currently allow their gay and lesbian residents to marry – do not receive any of the federal rights and benefits, so they're not yet 'full' and 'equal,' wrote Splaine in an e-mail on Wednesday afternoon.
Splaine also wrote that employers like the City of Portsmouth have to treat their gay and lesbian married employees differently than other married employees because of DOMA. He said this causes inequality and a costly double-accounting and administration of rights and benefits given by the city and state vs. those not allowed under federal states.
Splaine said the recent death of Charlie Morgan of Rye, a New Hampshire Army National Guard chief warrant officer who fought for marriage equality, brought the issue into even greater focus here in the city. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, introduced the Charlie Morgan Act on the Senate floor to guarantee marriage equality for military spouses regardless of their sexual orientation
In a letter Splaine wrote to the council, he said, "As a hero in our country, Charlie Morgan faced discrimination by not being eligible for the federal benefits otherwise given to differently-gendered married couples, and her wife and daughter will not be eligible for all the survivor benefits because of the nation's policy, and that of the military, regarding same-gender marriages."
Splaine said he was asked by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston to approach City Councilors to support the amicus brief.