Lawyers for Edith Windsor on Thursday
told a federal appeals court in New York that the Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA) discriminates against gay couples and should be declared
The 83-year-old Windsor sued the
federal government after she received an estate bill of more than
$360,000 resulting from the death of her wife Thea Spyer. Windsor
maintains that DOMA, which bars federal agencies from recognizing the
legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, violates the equal
protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.
Windsor and Spyer 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 until last
year. Spyer died in 2009.
On June 6, New York District Court
Judge Barbara Jones ruled in favor of Windsor.
The House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory
Group (BLAG) at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner
intervened to defend the law after President Barack Obama instructed
the Department of Justice to no longer defend DOMA in court.
BLAG lawyer Paul Clement argued on
Thursday that gay men and lesbians, as a group, have political clout
and, unlike African-Americans and women, have never faced “structural
impediments” such as being denied the right to vote.
Outside the courtroom, Windsor
disagreed with Clement, telling reporters that DOMA is
“The Defense of Marriage Act
discriminates against gay people,” she said. “Not only is it
illegal, as my lawyers argued today, but it refutes, it really
challenges the basic principles on which this country was founded:
fairness and equality.”
The three-judge panel is not expected
to issue a ruling for several months.