Lots of news today. New York's Attorney General, Eric Scheiderman, filed a friend of the court brief supporting the ACLU's constitutional challenge of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor vs. United States. The summary of arguments reads:
By refusing to recognize for federal purposes marriages that are valid under state law, DOMA intrudes on matters historically within the control of the States, and undermines and denigrates New York’s law designed to ensure equality of same-sex and different-sex married couples. Thus DOMA threatens basic principles of federalism. Moreover, it classifies and determines access to rights, benefits, and protections based on sexual orientation, and also based on sex.
For each of these reasons, considered separately or together, DOMA should be subjected to heightened scrutiny under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, and it cannot withstand such scrutiny.
Though not mentioned in the ACLU’s challenge, Scheiderman introduces 10th Amendment conflicts. The 10th Amendment was raised also by Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and
Human Services. Coakley won at trial, and the case has been fused at appeal with Gay And Lesbians Advocates and Defenders case Gill, et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, et al.
The weight of yet another major state objecting to DOMA may be too much for this discriminatory law to bear. This is yet another crippling blow, judicially, though clearly we may not see fruit from it until the Supreme Court decides.
The plaintiff in the case, Edith Windsor is an 81-year old widow living in New York City, and she is stylish and sharp as a tack. Windsor lived with her partner over 40 years, and was the subject of the documentary Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement. The broach she wears in the photo was a gift from her wife. When given to her in the 1960s it served as an subtle engagement ring. They wed in Canada a few years before her partner finally passed after a long struggle with multiple sclerosis. The Government then stuck Edie with a big tax bill, and the ACLU called foul, as it was attempting to collect inheritance taxes heterosexually married couples would not be obliged to pay.
The case is expected to go to trial in Lower Manhattan later this fall.
AG Schneiderman has used his office well here, in the pursuit of justice for his own constituents and by proxy for many across America.
We New Yorkers have name for people like Eric Schneiderman: Mensch.
You can thank him on Twitter here.