Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional

Post Date: 6/28/13
Last Updated: 6/28/13


Cross References
- Windsor, U.S. Supreme Court, June 26, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

DOMA (Public Law 104-199). DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton on September 21, 1996. Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage and spouse as follows:

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

District Court. (Windsor, U.S. District Court, Southern District of N.Y., June 6, 2012). In 1963, Edie Windsor met her late spouse, Thea Spyer, in New York City. Windsor and Spyer entered into a committed relationship and lived together in New York. In 1993, Windsor and Spyer registered as domestic partners in New York City, as soon as that option became available. In 2007, as Spyer’s health began to deteriorate due to her multiple sclerosis and heart condition, Windsor and Spyer decided to get married in Canada, which is a jurisdiction that permits gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Spyer died in February 2009. Windsor inherited Spyer’s estate. Because of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), under federal estate tax laws, Windsor did not qualify for the unlimited marital deduction [IRC §2056(a)]. As a result, she was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax. On November 9, 2010, Windsor filed a suit seeking a refund of the federal estate tax levied on Spyer’s estate, claiming that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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