Veterans Affairs Refuses to Defend DOMA
On Wednesday, a Veterasn Affairs Department legal memo announced the VA’s refusal to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act” in veterans benefits cases. The VA will not fight Fifth Amendment claims based on equal protection under the law brought against DOMA, says the memo signed by VA Counsel Will Gunn on behalf of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Yale Law School had filed the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on behalf of Carmen Cardona, a married disabled veteran who had served in the Navy for 18 years. Cardona had applied for an increase in benefits, which, because she is married to a woman, were automatically denied under DOMA.
The memo also says Shinseki believes DOMA should be subject to a “heightened scrutiny” standard, meaning it is up to defenders of DOMA to prove the law is justifiable under the constitution, and that under this standard, DOMA is unconstitutional. This position echoes the reasoning offered by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this year, and affirmed by President Obama, for the Department of Justice’s refusal to continue to defend DOMA.
Click here to read the legal memo in the Cardona case.
As it has done in the past, it is possible that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a standing body of the U.S. House of Representatives led by House Speaker John Boehner, will take over defending DOMA cases, such as the Cardona case, where the Obama Administration refuses to do so.
To read more on the VA’s refusal to defend DOMA, click on the following link to an article in the Navy Times.
The VA’s stance on DOMA is yet another chink in DOMA’s armor, and further proof that DOMA is not only unfair and discriminatory, but also unconstitutional. We can look forward to the day when DOMA ends and married same-sex couples are no longer denied the important federal benefits they deserve.