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Seattle Officials Challenge DOMA

Liz Jones

Tuesday the city of Seattle took its support for same–sex marriage to a federal level. The city joined in a legal effort to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.


The law that excludes same–sex married couples from federal benefits is usually called DOMA, for short.

Rasmussen: "No matter what you call it, the Defense of Marriage Act is an odious law."

That's Seattle City Councilman Tom Rasmussen.

He joined with Mayor Mike McGinn and City Attorney Peter Holmes in Tuesday's announcement. They say the city has filed an amicus brief with the US Court of Appeals to challenge the constitutionality of DOMA. Several other cities and employers have filed similar briefs.

At the same time, gay marriage opponents have filed briefs to keep DOMA on the books. They say it is constitutional to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The law bars gay spouses from federal benefits, like health insurance and social security payments. Holmes says that forces the city to handle benefits differently for gay employees. He says that leads to higher taxes and administrative costs for the city. Plus, other less tangible expenses —

Holmes: "How do you quantify the morale issues? How do you quantify the unfairness?"

Because of DOMA, the city's gay, married employees also pay extra taxes on their health benefits. Employees like Ken Molsberry. He includes his husband on the city's health plan, at a steep rate.

Molsberry: "That costs us over a thousand dollars a year in taxes that my straight co–workers don't have to pay."

Nearly 4,700 couples are registered as domestic partners with the city of Seattle.

The Defense of Marriage Act has been on the books for 15 years. Then, in May, a federal appeals court struck down part of the law. The US Supreme Court is expected to take up the case this fall.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

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