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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Smelt v. United States PB-CA-0035
Docket / Court 8:09-cv-00286-DOC-MLG ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Case Summary
On December 29, 2008, two men married in the state of California, filed suit against the United States, the State of California, and 'Does 1 through 1,000' alleging violations by the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA", 1 U.S.C. §7) of the Full Faith and Credit, Equal Protection, and Due ... read more >
On December 29, 2008, two men married in the state of California, filed suit against the United States, the State of California, and 'Does 1 through 1,000' alleging violations by the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA", 1 U.S.C. §7) of the Full Faith and Credit, Equal Protection, and Due Process clauses to the Constitution, as well as the rights to Privacy, Speech, Travel, and the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution. The case was originally filed in Superior Court of California for the County of Orange and removed to the US District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that DOMA discriminated along lines of gender and sexual orientation by prohibiting any requirement that any state recognize same sex marriages conducted in another state, and in turn permitting the limitation of federal benefits tied to marital status that are due those couples on such grounds. Plaintiffs also complained that the California state constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage ("Proposition 8") violated the same set of rights as DOMA. These allegations had been brought twice before by the couple, but were dismissed or withdrawn for jurisdictional and technical reasons.

The portion of the case pursuing California law was dismissed as moot on July 25, 2009, since plaintiffs were already and continued to be legally married in the state of California. The Court, Judge David O. Carter, ultimately dismissed the portion of the case concerning DOMA on technical grounds on August 24, 2009, citing improper initial filing in state court (despite removal to proper federal court). The case is notable for the two different stances taken by the Department of Justice ("DOJ") during briefing. The DOJ initially defended the law substantively in briefing filed June 11, 2009, citing public policy considerations to validate DOMA's diminishment of the legal status of same-sex marriages in states where they are prohibited by law, and consequent limitation on the federal benefit rights afforded such couples whose marriages are not legal in all states. In later briefing filed on August 17, 2009, the DOJ withdrew support for the law, stating that it should be "repealed as a matter of policy" due to its "discriminatory" nature, but continued to defend it on the presumption of constitutionality afforded acts of Congress and its practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality. This was an intermediate step towards the DOJ's later position that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Carlos Torres - 05/18/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Full faith and credit
Right to travel
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Marriage
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) United States
Plaintiff Description two married males, private individuals
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2009
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PB-CA-0034 : Smelt v. County of Orange (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
http://www.limitedpartnershipmovie.com/
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple’s 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
8:09−cv−00286 (C.D. Cal.) 10/01/2009
PB-CA-0035-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice of Removal 03/09/2009
PB-CA-0035-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 03/09/2009 (2009 WL 1471476)
PB-CA-0035-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Answer of Proposition 8 Official Proponents and Campaign Committee 04/10/2009 (2009 WL 1683907)
PB-CA-0035-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Proposed Intervenors’ Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Intervene 05/06/2009 (2009 WL 1683904)
PB-CA-0035-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss Action Against Defendant State of California for Failure to State A Claim [Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)] 06/11/2009 (2009 WL 1683905)
PB-CA-0035-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Defendant United States of America’s Notice of Motion and Motion to Dismiss; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support Thereof 06/11/2009 (2009 WL 1683906)
PB-CA-0035-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Intervenors’ Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss Action Against Defendant State of California 06/29/2009 (2009 WL 1899555)
PB-CA-0035-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Plaintiffs’ Amended Opposition to Defendant State of California’s Motion to Dismiss 07/09/2009 (2009 WL 2135249)
PB-CA-0035-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendant State of California’s Motion to Dismiss 07/09/2009 (2009 WL 2142730)
PB-CA-0035-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss Action Against Defendant State of California for Failure to State A Claim 07/10/2009 (2009 WL 2135250)
PB-CA-0035-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Civil Minutes-General [Granting Motion to Dismiss] 07/15/2009 (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0035-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendant United States of America’s Motion to Dismiss 07/27/2009 (2009 WL 2251795)
PB-CA-0035-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Intervenors’ Memorandum of Points And Authorities in Support of United States of America’s Motion to Dismiss 07/27/2009 (2009 WL 2251796)
PB-CA-0035-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Reply Memorandum in Support of Defendant United States of America’s Motion to Dismiss 08/17/2009 (2009 WL 2610458)
PB-CA-0035-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
United States of America’s Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion to Deem the Complaint Filed Nunc Pro Tunc and the Fee Waiver Granted 08/17/2009 (2009 WL 2610459)
PB-CA-0035-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss 08/24/2009 (2009 WL 5948309) (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0035-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Carter, David O. (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0035-0002 | PB-CA-0035-0003 | PB-CA-0035-9000
Goldman, Marc L (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
PB-CA-0035-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gilbert, Richard C. (California)
PB-CA-0035-0001 | PB-CA-0035-0004 | PB-CA-0035-0011 | PB-CA-0035-0013 | PB-CA-0035-0014 | PB-CA-0035-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Acquisto, Stephen (California)
PB-CA-0035-0007 | PB-CA-0035-0010
Beckington, Mark R. (California)
PB-CA-0035-0007 | PB-CA-0035-0010 | PB-CA-0035-9000
Brown, Edmund G. Jr. (California)
PB-CA-0035-0007 | PB-CA-0035-0010
Campbell, James A. (Arizona)
PB-CA-0035-9000
Gilligan, James J (District of Columbia)
PB-CA-0035-0008
Goldberg, Arthur Robert (District of Columbia)
PB-CA-0035-0015 | PB-CA-0035-0016
Hertz, Michael F. (District of Columbia)
PB-CA-0035-0001
Kim, Sam (California)
PB-CA-0035-9000
Parker, Michael L. (California)
PB-CA-0035-9000
Pugno, Andrew Perry (California)
PB-CA-0035-0005 | PB-CA-0035-9000
Raum, Brian W. (Arizona)
PB-CA-0035-0006 | PB-CA-0035-0009 | PB-CA-0035-0012 | PB-CA-0035-9000
Renner, Jonathon K. (California)
PB-CA-0035-0007 | PB-CA-0035-0010
Simpson, W. Scott (District of Columbia)
PB-CA-0035-0001 | PB-CA-0035-0008 | PB-CA-0035-0015 | PB-CA-0035-0016 | PB-CA-0035-9000
West, Tony (District of Columbia)
PB-CA-0035-0008 | PB-CA-0035-0015 | PB-CA-0035-0016
Other Lawyers None on record

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