Penn State Law student and professor involved in the Supreme Court DOMA case

If the Supreme Court invalidates the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), third-year law student Maren Miller-Bam hopes that her work played some small part in it. She assisted Penn State Law professor Robert Rains, a family law and federal benefits expert, in an amicus brief on behalf NOSSCR, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives

The case, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, centers on the constitutionality of the part of DOMA that defines marriage, for the purpose of federal benefits, as a union of one man and one woman. Rains and the other amici argue that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law to married persons of the same sex. Rains is counsel of record on the brief for NOSSCR, which filed as amici curiae with Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC), and the American Society on Aging (ASA). 

“Part of the brief includes a breakdown of how same-sex spouses are losing out just because of the way that federal law defines a spouse. Same-sex spouses cannot get retirement, disability, or federal survivor’s benefits on a spouse’s Social Security account,” said Miller-Bam, who spent two semesters of law school in a clinic devoted to Social Security and disability law. She enjoyed Social Security law so much that she decided to follow up on that experience by working as Rains’ research assistant.

“I enjoyed working with other talented attorneys with many years of Social Security practice experience. It was a great chance to learn new techniques from their varied writing styles and to learn more about the intricate rules for Social Security," said Miller-Bam, who has a degree in economics from Villanova. She hopes that her legal practice will include Social Security and other public benefits matters.

“Maren did a great job trying to explain the numerous complex benefits provisions for married persons under the Social Security Act in a way that should be comprehensible to generalists on the court,” said Rains, who focuses his scholarship on family law as it relates to persons with disabilities. Rains recently stepped down after serving 10 years on the Board of Directors of NOSSCR.

United States v. Windsor has started argument before the Supreme Court.

Contacts: 

Robert Rains

Robert Rains is a professor of law at Penn State who focuses his scholarship on family law and law as it relates to persons with disabilities. 

Last Updated April 27, 2013