When Clara Spyer died she left an inheritance for her spouse, Edith Windsor. The estate tax has an unlimited marital deduction. Nonetheless there was $363,053 in estate tax. The reason for this is that Ms. Spyer and Ms. Windsor were both women. Under federal law, specifically Section 3 of the Defence of Marriage Act, benefits of marriage can only go to opposite sex couples regardless of state law. The Second Circuit has upheld the decision of a district court that Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution. The decision is well worth reading. The list of organizations filing amicus briefs is entertaining by itself. Not too often you get to see Jay Sekulow and Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. on the same list. Since this case has gotten so much coverage, I think there is one thing that people need to get straight to properly understand it. It is not about DOMA in its entirety. It is about Section 3 of DOMA.
Tag: Supreme Court
IN 2007, EDITH Windsor married Thea Spyer, her partner of 42 years, in Canada. Two years later, Ms. Spyer died. If the New York couple had been been man and woman, Ms. Windsor wouldn’t have been hit with a big estate tax bill. But they were two women, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibited the federal government from recognizing their relationship. Ms. Windsor owed the Internal Revenue Service $363,053.
No government interest could justify such punitive discrimination, and, increasingly, federal courts are saying so. On Thursday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which considered Ms. Windsor’s case, ruled that DOMA violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. That followed a similar result from the 1st Circuit, which in May also found the noxious federal law to be inconsistent with this nation’s foundational values.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Justice Antonin Scalia says his method of interpreting the Constitution makes some of the most hotly disputed issues that come before the Supreme Court among the easiest to resolve.
Scalia calls himself a “textualist” and, as he related to a few hundred people who came to buy his new book and hear him speak in Washington the other day, that means he applies the words in the Constitution as they were understood by the people who wrote and adopted them.
So Scalia parts company with former colleagues who have come to believe capital punishment is unconstitutional. The framers of the Constitution didn’t think so and neither does he.
“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state,” Scalia said at the American Enterprise Institute.
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and 144 other House Democrats filed a brief on Friday arguing that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
The brief was filed in the case of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian widow who sued the government after she was taxed more than $363,000 on assets that passed to her after the death of her wife in 2009 because the government did not recognize their marriage.
The two women first met in 1963 and were married in New York in 2007 after a more than 40-year engagement.
Windsor’s case has reached the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and been petitioned to the Supreme Court for review.
The brief dissects arguments made by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), instructed by House Republicans to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court after the Obama administration refused to do so in February 2011, and argues that the Court of Appeals should uphold a New York District Court’s June ruling that DOMA violates the Constitution.
Pelosi was joined by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in signing the amicus brief, which voluntarily offers information to the court. According to the brief, there is no legitimate federal interest in denying same-sex couples the rights that come with marriage.
“It is impossible to believe that any legitimate federal interest is rationally served by depriving a widow like [Edie] Windsor of the marital deduction that allows married couples to pass property to the surviving spouse without penalty, thus maximizing the survivor’s financial well-being,” the document reads.
Last week the Supreme Court received its fourth petition in less than a month asking the high court to review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
On July 16, lawyers for Edith ’’Edie’’ Windsor filed the petition with the hope that the Supreme Court will consider the 83-year-old window’s case challenging Section 3 of DOMA on the grounds that it violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by blocking same-sex couples from enjoying federal benefits.
Although arguments are scheduled to begin in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in September, Windsor’s lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to expedite the case because of its national importance. The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic joined in filing the petition.
Windsor has been challenging DOMA since 2009, following the death of her wife, Thea Spyer. Windsor is suing to recoup about $363,000, federal estate tax she was forced to pay on her inheritance from Spyer. The federal government does not tax inheritances that pass from one spouse to the other, but because of DOMA the federal government has refused to recognize Windsor and Spyer’s marriage. According to the ACLU, payment of the federal estate tax is one of the most damaging impacts of DOMA
Sally Ride, who died on Monday, can help put a face to a national problem.
She was the first American woman and the youngest American ever to travel in space—the kind of accomplishment that automatically gets you the label of “inspiration for generations of young Americans” and an obit in The Times. But Ms. Ride did a lot more than just make her landmark space flight in 1983 (and a second one later on). She served on the commission that investigated the Challenger explosion, as well on the commission for the Columbia accident. And she formed a company, Sally Ride Science, to promote science education among young people.
What’s less well known is that Ms. Ride was gay. Family and friends were aware of her 27-year relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy, but the wider public was not. I bring up this personal detail because, as numerous people on the Web and Twitter have pointed out, Ms. O’Shaughnessy is not entitled to any federal benefits. (She probably doesn’t need the money, but that’s beside the point.)
Viacom is proud of our diverse and inclusive global workforce that reflects the rich character of our audiences, our partners and our employees. We diligently work towards enhancing our own policies that encourage diversity and equality, and believe that we have a role to play in supporting important efforts to expand these values across the country and around the world.
This month, Viacom joined a broad group in signing onto an amicus (or friend of the court) brief challenging a federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union only between a man and a woman. The brief, filed in the case of Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management in the United States of Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, was signed by a number of other companies, non-profit organizations, labor groups and the cities of Boston, Cambridge, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle, and West Hollywood.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have joined the growing choir of individuals calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
On Wednesday, attorneys representing the City of New York — as well as Bloomberg and Quinn in their official capacities — filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the justices to take up lesbian Edith Windsor’s challenge to DOMA, known as Windsor v. United States.
Windsor, a New York City widow, had to pay nearly $363,000 in federal estates taxes upon the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, in 2009 because of Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The 14-page brief calls DOMA “the last remaining obstacle to achieving legal equality between the city’s married couples” while making the case to strike down the anti-gay law.
“Solely because of DOMA, Edith Windsor was required to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate tax on her legal spouse’s estate,” the brief states. “If Ms. Windsor’s spouse had been a man, the marital exemption provided by federal law would have applied and she would not have owed any federal estate taxes at all. As a result of DOMA, thousands of legally married same-sex couples in the New York City are being subjected to this type of disparate treatment because their legal marriages are not recognized under federal law.”
By Kristen Friend, staff writer – July 17, 2012.
As the Supreme Court wrapped up its high-profile 2011-2012 term, the pundits and politicians dominating the 24-hour news cycle could speak of little else but the political ramifications of its decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. However, just weeks after the high-profile ruling, lines are already being drawn over what could be the Court’s next big constitutional battle. Both Congress and the Department of Justice have asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of same-sex marriage, a topic it has not yet addressed directly.
The controversy centers on the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. A handful of federal courts have already struck down section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional.  Section 3 defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman for the purpose of any federal law, program or administrative function. 
DOMA was passed with a substantial bipartisan majority and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. President Clinton has since reversed his stance on the law and indicated he believes gay and lesbian individuals should have the right to marry and enjoy federal protections. 
Activity in district and federal courts concerning DOMA has become almost commonplace. The group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) lists 17 current challenges to the law on its website.  And last Thursday a California couple filed a new suit, challenging DOMA on the basis that it denies them the immigration rights afforded to heterosexual couples. 
Both supporters and opponents of gay marriage rights believe public opinion is trending in their favor. Nationally, supporters appear to be right. Greg Lewis, a professor of public management at Georgia State University who has been studying public opinion about gay marriage and gay rights for roughly 20 years, estimates that support for gay marriage has increased by 16 points since 2004.  In May, Gallup released a poll showing support for same-sex marriage winning 50 to 48 percent. In 1996, when DOMA was passed, Gallup polling showed opposition to gay marriage at 68 percent.  
The Obama administration late Tuesday filed petitions with the Supreme Court asking justices to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Justice Department filed the requests in case of Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, which is currently pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals, and the case of Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services, in which the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.
In the petition for the Golinski case, the Justice Department states that justices should hear the litigation so that the question of DOMA’s constitutionality “may be authoritatively decided by this court.”
“Authoritative resolution of the question presented is of great importance to the United States and to respondent Golinski and tens of thousands of others who are being denied the equal enjoyment of the benefits that federal law makes available to persons who are legally married under state law,” the filing states.