The Edmond Sun

November 19, 2013

Attorney: City complying with DOMA decision issues

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Edmond is complying with federal regulations and state law following the court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, the city’s attorney said.

Tuesday afternoon, the decision and its local impact were discussed by members of the city’s Employee Pension and Retirement Board. The panel meets every two months to consider action related to matters including establishing and enforcing necessary rules and procedures.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons protected by the Fifth Amendment.

In 2007, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer married in Toronto where same-sex marriages were legal. At the time of Spyer’s death, the state of New York recognized the couple’s marriage.

However, the IRS denied Windsor use of a spousal estate tax exception on the ground that under the Defense of Marriage Act the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriages for the purpose of federal benefits.

The Obama Administration argued Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause and advocates for heightened scrutiny of laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

After the president and attorney general Eric Holder announced they would not defend the law in court, a group led by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, took up that role. Boehner’s group argued the court should apply the lowest level of scrutiny, rational basis review, because the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is not a protected class.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Treasurer Stephen Schaus said following the decision, he asked McAfee & Taft Attorney John Papahronis, who is familiar with pension issues, to see if there was any impact regarding the city’s employee pension plan.

City of Edmond Attorney Steve Murdock said the review shows the city is in compliance with both IRS regulations and state law.

“Our code doesn’t specifically address this issue so we’re not in violation of anything,” Murdock said.

Murdock said the legal issue is evolving and the city will continue to comply with it as it changes. Murdock said Papahronis will continue to monitor the issue for the city.

Papahronis reported the Supreme Court’s decision did not address the validity of Section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the right to recognize or not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Article 2 Section 35 in the Oklahoma Constitution defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. A constitutional provision prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages sanctioned by other states.

On Aug. 29, the Internal Revenue Service issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17, which has no effect on the tax codes of individual states, Papahronis reported. | 341-2121, ext. 108