Via CBS News reports:
The gay rights movement saw a significant victory at the Supreme Court Wednesday, even as the court dodged the fundamental issue of whether marriage is a constitutionally-protected right for all couples, gay or straight.
In a 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor, the court struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits — like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns — to same-sex couples legally married.
“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“We are happy Prop. 8 remains the law of California,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said outside of the court.
The impact of the DOMA case, by contrast, is clear. DOMA impacts around 1,100 federal laws, including veterans’ benefits, family medical leave and tax laws. There are about 130,000 married same-sex couples in the United States today who up to this point were treated as unmarried as it pertained to those federal laws.
Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old lesbian who sued the United States government for discriminatory treatment under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), said she felt “honored, humbled and overjoyed” after Wednesday’s ruling came down.
Windsor sued the government because under DOMA, it did not recognize her marriage to her late partner, Thea Spyer. After living together in New York for more than four decades, Windsor and Spyer finally married in 2007, when Spyer became seriously ill. When Spyer died in 2009, she left Windsor her estate. Because DOMA didn’t recognize their marriage — even though the state of New York did — the IRS hit Windsor with $363,053 in estate taxes.
Windsor’s attorney Roberta Kaplan said that Windsor will get every cent of her money back — with interest.
Congratulations to the LGBT Community for the DOMA and Prop 8 victories. It’s been a long struggle, and today’s victories are well deserved. Is America finally moving forward?