Amici Briefs

The National LGBT Bar Association has submitted Amici briefs that have been used in cases concerning LGBT issues. We have provided these briefs for public viewing.

United States v. Windsor

Edith Windsor was married to Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007 and their marriage was recognized in New York where they lived. The two had been together for 44 years when Spyer died in 2009. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Windsor was unable to claim the estate tax marital deduction that same-sex couples routinely receive. This discriminatory law required Windsor to pay over $350,000 in federal estate taxes. Windsor requested a full refund from the government, but the IRS rejected that claim because of DOMA. The case passed through district court and the court of appeals in New York before being slated to come before the Supreme Court in March 2013.

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Hollingsworth v. Perry

California’s Proposition 8 case considers the constitutionality of an amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The case was first filed in May 2009 and asked for a preliminary order blocking Proposition 8. In August 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 on the grounds that it violated due process and equal protection clauses of the California Constitution. After a lengthy appeals process, in February 2012, the Ninth Circuit court upheld Judge Walker’s ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court will hear the case in March 2013.

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Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management

In 2008, Karen Golinski tried to enroll her spouse, Amy Conninghis in her employer-provided insurance plan. When she was denied, she filed a complain under the Ninth Circuit’s Employment Dispute Resolution Plan that the denial of coverage for her spouse constituted prohibited discrimination. In January 2009, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that the denial did violate the Ninth Circuit’s employment policies because heterosexual court employees were able to receive benefits for their spouses. The Office of Personnel Management then claimed that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented coverage for the spouses of lesbian and gay federal employees. Golinski is now suing the federal government for equal benefits for her wife.

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Gill v. Office of Personnel Management

In 2009, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the lawsuit in the District Court of Massachusetts. The plantiffs, Nancy Gill and Marcelle Letourneau, challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines the term marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” In July 2010, District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro ruled that section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. Later, Judge Tauro stayed the implementation of his verdict in order to allow an appeal from the Department of Justice (DOJ). In January 2011, the DOJ filed a brief in the First Circuit Court defending DOMA, but on February 25, the DOJ decided it would “cease to defend” the case. This challenge marks the first time that a case filed against DOMA has reached a federal appellate court.

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Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (U.S. Supreme Court)

In 2010, the National LGBT Bar Association and its Law Student Division teamed up with 55 LGBT law student groups at our nation’s top law schools to file an amicus brief in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. In 2004, the Christian Legal Society’s chapter at the University of California-Hastings filed a lawsuit after the school denied a funding request because of the group’s anti-LGBT discrimination policy. The question before the Court was whether the “Constitution allows a state law school to deny recognition to a religious student organization because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, affirmed the University of California-Hastings’ decision to deny funding to student groups that discriminate against its LGBT students.

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In re Marriage Cases (California Supreme Court)

In 2007, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and played a critical role in arguing that lesbian and gay couples should receive equal treatment under the law.

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Lawrence v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court)

In 2003, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff’s right to sexual privacy in the case which struck down the Texas sodomy law, holding that intimate consensual conduct was part of the liberty protected by due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Rumsfeld v. FAIR (Third Circuit Court of Appeals & U.S. Supreme Court)

In 2004, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted amicus briefs challenging the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which permits the military to recruit on college campuses despite the conflict between the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute and the non-discrimination policies of many colleges that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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In re Guardianship of Kowalski (Minnesota Court of Appeals)

In 1991, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief in support of the successful appointment of Karen Thompson as guardian for her lesbian partner, Sharon Kowalski, after she became incapacitated in a car accident. This case garnered national and international attention because Kowalski’s family contested the appointment of Ms. Thompson.

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Partner with the National LGBT Bar Association

The National LGBT Bar Association is proud to offer our advocacy services as amicus curiae and our support for organizations in cases or initiatives that align with the LGBT Bar’s vision and mission.

The Association does so by partnering with like-minded, progressive organizations to take positions on issues such as LGBT equality, the right of all LGBT people to live free from discrimination and continuing commitment to diversity in the legal profession. The Public Policy Committee of the National LGBT Bar Association advocates on behalf of justice for the LGBT community in all of its diversity through, among other things, written legal advocacy.

The LGBT Bar seeks opportunities to work with other organizations in the future by drafting or signing on to amicus briefs and assisting with initiatives on civil rights issues important to our members. If you are currently working on a case or issue which you would like the National LGBT Bar Association to support, or if you would like further information, please contact our Executive Director, D’Arcy Kemnitz. Additionally, please keep the National LGBT Bar Association’s Public Policy Committee in mind when you are developing initiatives in the future.