The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the court case United States v. Windsor on March 28th, 2013. This is but one of many court cases that protests Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA which was signed into law by former president Bill Clinton on September 21st, 1996.
This legislation officially defined marriage as a legal union exclusively between men and women. Under this law no state or government entity is required to recognize marriages between two men or two women. Section 3 of DOMA goes on to specify that same sex couples are not entitled to insurance benefits for government employees, social security survivor benefits, immigration benefits, or the ability to file a joint tax return.
In 2011 the Obama administration declared section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional even though it still continued to enforce it. It has also been declared unconstitutional in 8 different federal courts, which is where United States v. Windsor was pulled from.
The history of this case is a simple love story where New York residents Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer got married in Toronto, Ontario in 2007 even though Windsor had originally proposed in 1965. Spyer unfortunately died in 2009, at a time when New York finally recognized same-sex marriages in other jurisdictions. After her death, Windsor was required to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes on her inheritance of her wife’s estate.
However, if federal law gave their marriage the same status as different-sex marriages recognized by the state of New York, Windsor would have paid no taxes.
After making its way through the lower courts, this case finally found itself at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit where the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that in Windsor v. United States Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional.
As we wait to see if this decision will be upheld or repealed by the Supreme Court only one thing is certain: society is clearly ready for a change.