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July 16, 2012

Breaking: Edie Windsor petitions SCOTUS to hear case arguing DOMA violates Constitution’s equal protection clause

Posted in: DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act is under fire again as attorneys for 83-year-old Edie Windsor, a  lesbian from New York, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case, bypassing a second round in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. In June a federal judge ruled that DOMA violates the federal constitution. The ruling came in an ACLU case brought by Edie Windsor after the death of her spouse and partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer.

In New York, Edie and Thea were a lawfully married couple, but because of DOMA, they weren’t in the eyes of the federal government. So when Thea left their apartment and the rest of her possessions to Edie, the IRS taxed that inheritance as though they were strangers. Where a straight widow would have owed nothing at all, Edie had to pay over $363,000 in federal taxes.

Lila Shapiro at Huff Po:

Earlier this month, the Obama administration asked the high court to review two other cases challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. With Windsor’s petition, there are now three cases, from three of the most significant gay marriage states, that could challenge DOMA at the Supreme Court as early as next spring, if the court consents to hear them.

Roberta Kaplan, Windsor’s lawyer, said that Monday’s petition to speed the lawsuit’s movement through the courts was due in part to her client’s age and health. Windsor has a heart condition, and on June 13, after the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group filed a notice of appeal, Windsor filed a motion to expedite the latest appeal, citing her poor health and a desire to “see the constitutional claim of her spouse’s estate resolved during her lifetime.”

Windsor said she was thrilled about how wide-reaching the implications of her case could be for other same-sex couples. But her first reaction was, “I need to tell Thea immediately,” she recalled. “So I walked around, looking at the pictures and I said, ‘Oh honey, look what’s happening.’”

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, the ACLU, and the New York Civil Liberties Union are handling the case.

When I met Ms. Windsor in June, she was ebullient and charming…and yes, quite frail. She should be able to see DOMA dashed in her lifetime.


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