Two days after gay and lesbian couples
began marrying in New York, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
says the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
DOMA, which denies
gay couples marrying in New York, five other states and the
District of Columbia access to
federal benefits, was approved by Congress in 1996.
Schneiderman filed a
friend-of-the-court brief in support of a widow who is challenging
Edith “Edie” Windsor received an
estate tax bill of more than $360,000 after the death of her wife
Thea Spyer. The two women shared their lives for 44 years and
married in Toronto, Canada in 2007. In 2009, New York began
recognizing the marriages of gay couples, although gay couples could
not enter such unions in the Empire State. Spyer died in 2009.
“By discriminating among married
couples based on sexual orientation and sex, DOMA deprives New York
of the ability to extend true equality to all marriages valid in the
state,” Schneiderman wrote in his filing.
In February, the Obama administration
announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court, prompting House
Republicans to pick up where the administration had left off.