“Defense of Marriage Act” Ruled Unconstitutional

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A federal court has ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional, and that the Government discriminated against Edie Windsor after the death of her same-sex spouse. The decision joins four other federal courts that previously struck down DOMA.

“Edie” Windsor sued the government for failing to recognize her marriage, which was performed in Canada in 2007 and recognized by their home state, New York.

Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples that are legally married as though they were not, in fact, married.  When Thea Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment they shared. Because they were married, Spyer’s estate normally would have passed to her spouse without any estate tax. But because DOMA prevents recognition of the otherwise valid marriages of same-sex couples, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Though they could not legally marry, they were together since 1967. Thea Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with the disease.

“Thea and I shared our lives together for 44 years, and I miss her each and every day,” said Windsor. “It’s thrilling to have a court finally recognize how unfair it is for the government to have treated us as though we were strangers.”

“This decision adds to what has become an avalanche of decisions that DOMA can’t survive even the lowest level of scrutiny by the courts,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project.

“Although we expect the attorneys for the House of Representatives to appeal today’s decision, we are confident that it will be affirmed on appeal, and we hope that the court will do so expeditiously given that our client is 83 years old,” said Windsor’s attorney Roberta A. Kaplan (www.aclu.org/edie).

A federal court has ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional, and that the Government discriminated against Edie Windsor after the death of her same-sex spouse. The decision joins four other federal courts that previously struck down DOMA.