Dragovich v. US Department of the Treasury


The plaintiffs (Dragovitch et al) and the defendants of the Dragovitch v. Treasury Department case had an ideological difference in interpretation of the constitution. This essay critically discusses the points of view from both the complainants and the defendants of the Dragovitch v. Treasury Department’s case. It also presents the points of interest of the people of the same sex marriages and their view point of the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. It has facts and rational arguments that are of the defendants of this case, which explain the reasons according which they think the Act is constitutional.

The Defense of Marriage Act

The Defense of Marriage Act was passed on September 21, 1996. In this legislation, marriage is a legal union of one woman with one man for interstate recognition purposes, and federal reasons in the US passing of this law was by both the House of Congress with large majorities. The US Federal legislation outlaws recognition of the same-sex marriages by any US state or political division in a different state. In section 3 of the defense of marriage act, non-recognition of the same sex marriages for federal purposes is codified. In the Federal purposes, the bid for insurance benefits for government employees from same-sex marriages is unlawful. Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act also does not consider the same-sex marriage individuals in the granting of social security survivor benefits and filling with joint tax returns (Egelko, 2012). This Act defines marriage as a legal union between a woman and a man as wife and husband. The word spouse means individuals of the opposite sex that happen to be either a wife or a husband. It is vivid and clear that the definition of marriage does not involve in its definitions the provision of the same-sex marriages in the constitution.

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Case Summary

Several workers of the State of California with the same sex domestic spouses on April 13, 2010, filed a case against US Department of the treasury. The case filed in the US District court for Northern California, Oakland Division. Board of Administrators of the California Public Employees Retirement system was also opposed. Among the complainants there were private and public interest counsel and they asked the court to offer the declaratory and injunctive release that followed after the 4th and 5th amendments. The plaintiffs claim was that the Federal law, Defense of Marriage Act and a provision written in the federal tax code were violating the constitutional rights of individuals. This is the constitutional right of individuals to equal and substantive due to the procedure by barring legal spouses of the same sex. These employees had been barred from being enrolled in the CalPERS care plan. They deemed this as an unfair and unconstitutional activity since opposite-sex spouses, or domestic partners had been allowed to enroll for the CalPERS.

Later, on February 25, 2011, The Department of Justice which was representing federal defendants communicated to the court that they had also noticed that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. They promised to ease their defense in the provision. To respond to this, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group offered to arrange a defense for the Defense of Marriage Act. The plaintiffs later submitted an amended complaint that included claims of the same sex domestic partners. The initial complain of the plaintiffs only included the same-sex married couples (Thomaston, 2012). The Department of Justice moved to dismiss the new claims. At this time, the Department of Justice did not oppose the claims, but only reacted with a dismissal attempt. Judge Wilken a court judge denied these claims. The judge had an argument that these claims did not bear a rational relationship to government interests.

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On January 19th, 2012, those who complained moved for a summary judgment, the Department of Justice released a brief supporting statement that supported the same-sex married couples.

On May24th, 2012, the plaintiffs of the Dragovitch v. US Treasury Department achieved flawless victory in their case. Since the District Judge (Judge Wilken) granted the plaintiffs suggestion for summary judgment. The judge denied the cross-motions of defendants and defendant-interveners. The new judgment held that section 3 of DOMA does not honor equal rights protection of the same sex spouses. It also had stated that the Internal Revenue Code violates the rights of registered same-sex partners. This ruling prevented the US Department of Treasury from disqualifying the CalPER plan and beneficial tax treatments to the same-sex spouses.

The Department of Justice did not consider the domestic partnership. The defendant-interveners continued to insist for the summary judgment with all the claims included.

After the chief judgment was achieved by Judge Wilken, the CalPERS granted same-sex spouses the right to receive protection and participate in the Long-Term Care Program, it still proved a bit hard for some legal and institution-based reasons. Therefore, the Health Insurance and Portability Act had issued a disqualification of individuals other than those specified under the tax provision code. These individuals had been barred from participation and enrollment in CalPERS (Geidner, 2012). This code had been signed into law a month before the DOMA. Wilken noted that the list of the eligible individuals which included former employees, employees, their spouses and people with relationships with the employees or spouse. The provision did not include the same-sex spouses and domestic partners. Wilken revised this and allowed for coverage of domestic partners and same-sex spouses in the provision.

View Points of Defense of Marriage Act by People of the US

The defense of Marriage Act was at first accepted by US law practitioners as a sensible masterpiece from the constitution. However, the world has developed at a rapid rate, and the presidents of the US have been changing time after time. As a result, the US president’s opinions about the Defense of Marriage Act also change with time. Different people in the US have had diversified opinions on matters pertaining the Defense of Marriage Act especially section 3 of this Act. The differences in the opinion about the Defense of Marriage Act are due to political motives and inspirations.

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The Republic Party of 1996 used section 2 of this Act in their endorsement. This endorsement prevented states from recognizing same-sex unions. This decision occurred during the reign of President Clinton. Later, the advocate magazine revealed Clinton’s opinion about the DOMA. He remains opposed to same-sex marriages. His belief, and opinion about marriage was that marriage is an institution in which the union of man and woman should exist only. However, he did not consider mentioning the issue in his autobiography in 2004. This means that Clinton had fore seen some controversy in this act bearing in mind the increasing gay and lesbian marriages in the United States. Clinton’s views about same-sex marriages shifted over the years. In 2009, he said that he supported people doing what they want to do. It shows that Clinton was attempting to support gays. This issue can be politically explained. It may be approached with an understanding that Clinton was trying to lure the votes of people from same-sex marriages. It may also explain that these people might have reached a significant number, and ignoring them at this time would mean losing a substantial population to support him politically.

Some democrats argue that this legislation decision was politically motivated, and it was not made to respond to any societal needs. The gay and lesbian rights organizations did not have enough time to oppose the legislation. The reason is that Clinton government and the congress wanted to have this Act passed as fast as possible. When this law was made as a State-Federal Law, Clinton was travelling, and he came back to find the law already enacted with majority votes from the congress. Clinton argument was that the legislation should not have been enacted to prevent gays and lesbians from being discriminated on the basis of their sexuality.

The Federal judge in California on May 24 held that the constitutionality of the defense of Marriage Act provision was biased (Choudhry, 2007). He said that same-sex couples and domestic partners ought not to be limited from participating in the Long-Term Care Plan offered by CalPERS. This decision enacted by Claudia Wilken who was an appointee of Clinton. Therefore, it may be presumed that it was a political move since Clinton did not like the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act. In fact, the congress enacted the act when Clinton was absent. This was the first federal court decision relating to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage. President Obama announced that he believed that people of the same sex should be able to marry.

Judge Wilken found that section of DOMA, which is the federal definition of lawful marriage and spouse, is unconstitutional. In his explanation, DOMA violates equal protection of the rights of the same sex spouses. The court found that both provisions are not constitutionally valid, because they exclude the spouses of the same sex from enrolling in the CalPERS care plan. This case has an indirect nature of constitutional challenges and may be reflecting the same challenges directly to the federal courts.


In conclusion, it is so vivid that the Defense of Marriage Act had a bone of contention with the same-sex couples living in Northern California. The political motives towards the enactment and amendment of this law have also been clearly shown. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the interest of the public when making or when revising any legislation in a country. The Dragovitch v. US Department of Treasury depicts the effect of making laws without involving the public. Perhaps the US should consider the changing life of individuals when making State Federal laws.

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