In the case of the United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court has struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as violative of the Equal Protection clause of the 5th Amendment.
The case was originally brought by 83 year old New Yorker Edith Windsor, who upon the death of her female spouse, was compelled to pay over $300,000 in estate taxes because DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages. Windsor won in the lower courts and the United States petitioned the US Supreme Court for a final decision on the validity of DOMA, which extended to over 1,000 laws relative to taxes, social security and immigration, to name a few.
In striking down the validity of DOMA, the majority in the split court decision reasoned as follows:
" The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. "
In a related case, the US Supreme Court deemd California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, thereby upholding California's legalization of same sex marriages. These two decisions are both landmark in nature and huge victories for same sex marriage advocates. Noteworthy, is that the court also acknowledged that in the future it may have to resolve challenges to state definitions of marriage, which issue the court stated was not currently before it to decide.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.