Clock now ticking on DOMA appeals
by Lisa Keen
It's been 40 days since U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled – in two cases – that the federal benefits provision in the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. But the Department of Justice has still not indicated whether it intends to appeal those decisions to the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
In fact, according to DOJ attorney Scott Simpson, who is leading the case filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the government has not yet decided whether it will appeal.
Simpson declined to discuss the process further and directed a reporter to a media specialist at DOJ, who said only that she has "no updates" on that matter.
The cases are Gill v. Office of Personnel Management , brought by GLAD, and Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Both lawsuits challenged Section 3 of DOMA, which limits the definition of marriage for federal benefits to straight couples. Tauro ruled that Section 3 violates the right of gay people to equal protection under the Constitution, as well as the state's right to the sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents.
The rules of procedure for federal courts indicates the government has 60 days from when a judge "enters" his decision to file its appeal. Although Tauro issued his opinion in the two DOMA cases on July 8, he did not enter the decisions – a procedural formality – until August 12. According to court spokesman Frank Perry, the most recent federal court rules of procedures specify that the count is a simple calendar day one. So, barring some unforeseen development or request for extension of the ordinary deadline, the government has until October 11 – which will be easy enough for the LGBT community to remember because it's National Coming Out Day.