Two gay couples and a lesbian widow on
Wednesday triumphed at the Supreme Court, winning a pair of cases
related to gay marriage.
Edith 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.
The New York couple 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 the
state did not legalize such unions until 2011. Spyer died in 2009.
Signed into law by President Bill
Clinton, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents federal
agencies, such as the IRS, from recognizing the legal marriages of
In a 5-4 decision, the high court said
that “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal
liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
“DOMA singles out a class of persons
deemed by the State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance
their own liberty,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in writing for the
Justice Samuel Alito disagreed, writing
separately: “Same-sex presents a highly emotional and important
question of public policy – but not a difficult question of
constitutional law. The Constitutional does not guarantee the right
to enter into a same-sex marriage. Indeed, no provision of the
Constitution speaks to the issue.”
The ruling only applies to Section 3 of
the act, leaving intact the part of the law which says that states
are free to ignore the marriages of gay couples. Legislation has
been introduced to repeal the entire law but passage in the
Republican-controlled House seems unlikely.
The second case involves two California
gay couples – Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo and Kris Perry and Sandy
Stier – who despite a 2008 California Supreme Court ruling
legalizing gay nuptials are unable to marry because of Proposition 8,
the state's marriage ban.
Voters approved Prop 8 within months
after the court ruled.
In 2009, the American Foundation for
Equal Rights (AFER) formed specifically to file the case challenging
the constitutionality of Prop 8. A district court judge declared the
statute invalid in 2010, and an appeals court upheld the ruling.
After state officials refused to defend
the law in court, Protect Marriage, the coalition of groups formed to
approve Prop 8, stepped in.
In a 5-4 decision, the court decided
that Protect Marriage did not have legal standing to defend the law,
thereby upholding the lower court's decision invalidating Prop 8.
“No matter how deeply committed
petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8, that is not a
particularized interest sufficient to create a case or controversy
under Article III,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in writing for
A rally in West Hollywood to celebrate
starts at 5:30PM.