Legal Briefs (January 2013)

In October, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Windsor v. United States, maintaining that the Defense of Marriage Act is an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause.

DOMA is a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. It denies same-sex families the right to marry and the ability to enjoy the same financial and legal rights as heterosexual couples.

NASW, through its Legal Defense Fund, joined the American Psychological Association and a legal team headed by William F. Sheehan, of Goodwin Procter LLP, in filing an amicus curiae brief in the case.

The court action mirrors a similar ruling in May 2012: The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down DOMA as unconstitutional in Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. NASW joined the APA in filing an amicus brief in that case as well.

NASW has asserted that empirical research shows psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex couples closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. The association maintains that no scientific basis exists to conclude that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable in raising healthy and well-adjusted children.

NASW LDF also celebrated a positive decision reached in October by the 5th District Court of Appeals in Illinois in the case Catherine D.W. v. Deanna C.S. The court found that the lesbian partner of a mother who conceived via artificial insemination had legal standing to pursue claims for child custody and visitation based on common law principles of contract and promissory estoppel due to the voluntary agreement of the two mothers to co-parent the children, which was already established in the record.

NASW Associate Counsel Sherri Morgan was quoted in the “Chicago Daily Law Bulletin,” stating “The children’s interests are best served if both parents have a right for the situation to be reviewed by the court … Unfortunately, with many same-sex couples, one of the parents may be at a legal disability.” NASW filed an amicus brief in the case through the work of a pro bono legal team headed by Michael Brody and Tyler Johannes, of Winston & Strawn LLP.

Get these and other LDF cases at the Amicus Brief Database.