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Press Release

ADL and Broad Religious Coalition File Brief Opposing Part of the 'Defense of Marriage Act'

New York, NY, November 3, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today filed an amicus brief (PDF) on behalf of 21 religious organizations challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA).

Joining the League on the brief was a distinguished group of religious organizations, representing many different faith traditions and cultures. The consolidated cases now pending before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are Massachusetts v. HHS and Hara, Gill, et al. v. OPM.

"We have joined a diverse and impressive coalition of religious organizations challenging the application of DOMA to argue that religious views of marriage should be kept distinct from a civil understanding of marriage," said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. "The ill-conceived and discriminatory 1996 law flouts this longstanding constitutional principle by codifying one particular religious understanding of marriage into federal law."

Two July 2010 Massachusetts federal court decisions invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, holding that equal protection of the law extends to all civilly married couples – including same-sex couples – while recognizing the Constitutional freedom of religious institutions to choose how to define religious marriage.

"While the original, improper purpose behind DOMA may have been to express religious and moral condemnation of gays and lesbians, the result of the law has gone beyond this. DOMA has had a real impact on real people," said Ms. Lauter. "Yet, as this brief demonstrates, there are religious voices that strongly oppose DOMA, too. Our coalition stands squarely behind the proposition that the LGBT community should not be denied due process and equal protection under the law, particularly under the guise of religion and morality."

The law firm Ropes and Gray LLP prepared the friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of ADL.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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