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Topics In the News
 
DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional Yet Again
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/06/12
Last updated on: 06/08/12
 
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Edie Windsor (right) with Thea Spyer.

On June 6, 2012, in the case of Windsor v. U.S., United States District Court Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. In a 26-page opinion, she declared that DOMA is unconstitutional insofar as it forced Edie Windsor to pay estate taxes after the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, that would not have been owed had she been married to a man.

Spyer and Windsor had been lovers since 1963. They registered as domestic partners in New York in 1993 as soon as that option became available. In 2007, as Spyer's health began to deteriorate, the couple married in Canada. Spyer died in 2009 and Windsor was obliged to pay $353,000 in federal estate taxes that would have been exempted had they been a married heterosexual couple.

Judge Jones found DOMA unconstitutional under the lowest level of judicial scrutiny, "rational basis." She rejected as unconvincing all the attempts to find a rational basis for the legislation presented by the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which opposed Windsor's lawsuit.

"The search for the link between classification and objective gives substance to the equal protection analysis," Judge Jones wrote. "Additionally, as has always been required under the rational basis test, irrespective of the context, the court must consider whether the government's asserted interests are legitimate. Pursuant to those established principles, and mindful of the Supreme Court's jurisprudential cues, the court finds that DOMA's section 3 does not pass constitutional muster."

She also declared that DOMA raised serious issues of federalism.

She awarded judgment in the amount of $353,053, plus interest and costs allowed by law.

Windsor was represented by the ACLU and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

If the case is appealed, it will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The decision in Windsor v. U.S. may be found here.

Judge Jones's ruling comes on the heels of the decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously finding DOMA unconstitutional. That decision is discussed here.

Other U.S. District Court judges have also recently found DOMA unconstitutional.

For example, on May 24, 2012 a federal district court in California struck down DOMA in Dragovich v. Department of Treasury, the details of which may be found here. Another federal court in California struck down DOMA on February 22, 2012 in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, the details of which may be found here.

In the video below, Edie Windsor describes her long love affair with Thea Spyer.

In the following video, Edie Windsor reacts to the news that she has won her lawsuit.

 
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