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March 15, 2013
DFCI challenges DOMA as unconstitutional

Dana-Farber joined an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief filed with the Supreme Court on February 28, arguing that a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. Dana-Farber joined more than 278 other employers ranging from private businesses to cities – including Partners HealthCare System, Inc., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc., Biogen Idec, Inc., and the City of Boston – to inform the Supreme Court about the adverse effect of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the American employer.

Currently, DOMA forces an employer to segregate its lawfully-married employees into two categories, which creates regulatory, tax, benefit, and morale problems. For example, where an employee’s health care benefits include his or her spouse, this federal law insists an employer withhold more from the W-2 of a same-sex, lawfully-married employee than from a lawfully-married heterosexual employee.

Dana-Farber joined the amicus brief to ask that the federal government stop hindering employers from treating all of their married employees equally. “We want to create the best, most productive workplace environment possible for all employees. This initiative is a way for DFCI to demonstrate our support of diversity and publicly defend fair treatment for all,” notes Robin Antonellis, senior director of Compensation, Benefits, and HR Information Services.

Richard Boskey, senior vice president, general counsel, and chief governance officer in the Office of General Counsel at DFCI, adds, “The amici we have joined are a broad and diverse group but we all agree on the same principal – that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Although DFCI adheres to the more inclusive Massachusetts definition of marriage, this federal law distinguishes our employees based on their sexual orientation, and that goes against our core principles as an organization. We are proud to join this historic initiative and support equality for all of our employees.”

The brief is filed in the United States v. Windsor case, which will be argued in March, alongside a related case seeking to repeal California’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples under Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that California voters passed in 2008. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

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