The Defense of Marriage Act suffered another defeat in federal court Wednesday when a New York district judge ruled the statute unconstitutional.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Edie Windsor, who had claimed that the government had undermined her marriage to her partner, Thea Spyer, when Spyer passed away in 2009.
From the ACLU press release:
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.
Windsor had argued that DOMA violated the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because it allowed the government to treat marriages between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples differently when dealing with issues such as inheritance. Obama's Department of Justice used similar language in a 2011 statement announcing that the administration would no longer defend DOMA.
The court agreed with Windsor and the Obama administration in its ruling, finding that the measure “should not be presumed to be constitutional and should instead be subject to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny.”
That came as a relief to Windsor, who spoke after the case.
“Thea and I shared our lives together for 44 years, and I miss her each and every day,” she said. “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.”
DOMA has taken a legal beating over the past year. Just last week, a federal court in Massachusetts ruled against the statute in a decision that paved the way for the Supreme Court to take up the case.
Read the entire decision in Windsor v. United States here.