United States v. Windsor

Decision June 26, 2013 (5-4)

This post at Buzzfeed

The year is 1965, and Thea Spyer wants Edie Windsor to know something.

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The two of them date, cohabitate, and fall in love. When they decide to get married, they jet off to Canada, where it’s legal.

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By now, it’s 2007. New York has a policy that recognizes gay marriages that were performed in other jurisdictions, so in the eyes of the state, they’re hitched.

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Uh, New York. Right. Cute. Anyway.

Sadly, Thea died in 2009, leaving Edie a pretty big inheritance.

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The state demanded about 300 large in estate taxes on this money, which Edie wouldn’t have to pay if she qualified for a “spousal deduction,” a benefit straight couples get. So she sued in the district court.

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The law that deals with all of this is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Edie’s case specifically is about section 3, which, among other things, defines a married couple as a man and a woman, and a bunch of other stuff to that effect. 

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So the BLAG was all,

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Buuuut the district court said that section 3 was unconstitutional under the fifth amendment.

(While this happened, a group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, seriously, BLAG, which is part of the House of Representatives, intervened on behalf of the government. This is important later.)

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On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed that section 3 was unconstitutional. At this point, the Obama administration stopped enforcing DOMA and publicly announced that it disagrees with the legislation. But it dutifully filed a petition to SCOTUS anyway.

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SCOTUS is asking 3 questions about Windsor’s case. the first one, obviously, is if section 3 of DOMA is constitutional.

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The second one is if the suit is even a thing, because the US obviously actually agrees with the second circuit.

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The third one is whether BLAG even has the right to be a party to the case under Article III. 

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By a 5-4 ruling, SCOTUS declares DOMA unconstitutional. Marriage falls under the provisions of equal protection.

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