World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

United States v. Windsor

United States v. Windsor
Argued March 27, 2013
Decided June 26, 2013
Full case name United States, Petitioner v. Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al.
Docket nos. 12-307
Citations 570 U.S. ___ (more)
133 S.Ct. 2675; 186 L.Ed.2d 808
Prior history DOMA declared unconstitutional sub. nom. Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012); Affirmed, 699 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2012)
Related cases
Argument Oral argument
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause's guarantee of equal protection. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states. The judgment of the Second Circuit is affirmed.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Kennedy (opinion), joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
Dissent Roberts
Dissent Scalia, joined by Thomas; Roberts (part I)
Dissent Alito, joined by Thomas (parts II, III)
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. V; Defense of Marriage Act
Same-sex couple celebrating legal victory at San Francisco Pride 2013

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) (Docket No. 12-307), is a landmark case[1][2][3] in which the United States Supreme Court held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of "marriage" and "spouse" to apply only to heterosexual unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; Justice Kennedy wrote: "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity."[4]

Edith Windsor (born 1929) and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple residing in New York, were lawfully married in Ontario, Canada, in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was barred from doing so by Section 3 of DOMA (codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7), which provided that the term "spouse" only applied to marriages between a man and woman. The Internal Revenue Service found that the exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages, denied Windsor's claim, and compelled her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes.

On November 9, 2010, Windsor filed a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking a refund because DOMA singled out legally married same-sex couples for "differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification."[5] On February 23, 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 in Windsor. On April 18, 2011, Paul Clement, representing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), intervened to defend the law. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and ordered the federal government to issue the tax refund, including interest. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on October 18, 2012.

BLAG petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, and the Court issued a writ of certiorari in December 2012. On March 27, 2013, the court heard oral arguments. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5–4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional "as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment."[6]:25

On the same day, the court also issued a separate 5–4 decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry — a case related to California's constitutional amendment initiative barring same-sex marriage. The decision effectively allowed same-sex marriages in that state to resume after the court ruled that the proponents of the initiative lacked Article III standing to appeal in federal court based on its established interpretation of the case or controversy clause.


Edith "Edie" Windsor (née Schlain) was born in Philadelphia on June 20, 1929, to a Russian Jewish immigrant family of modest means.[7] During her childhood, her father lost both his candy-and-ice-cream store and his house during the Great Depression,[8] and at times she experienced anti-Semitism.[9] After graduating from Temple University, she married Saul Windsor. They divorced less than one year afterward,[10] and she confided in him that she longed to be with women.[9] Edie Windsor soon moved to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics at New York University. She would eventually become one of the first female senior systems programmers at IBM.[7]

Thea Clara Spyer was born in Amsterdam on October 8, 1931, to a wealthy Jewish family that soon escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to the United States before the Nazi invasion of Holland.[7][8] Spyer enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College, but was expelled after a campus guard saw her and another woman kissing.[8][9] She received a bachelor's degree from the New School for Social Research, and both a master’s degree and a PhD in clinical psychology, from City University of New York and Adelphi University, respectively.[11] In addition to her private psychology practice in Manhattan, Spyer was an accomplished violinist. She met Windsor in 1963 at a West Village restaurant,[10] and the two began dating after they reconnected in the Hamptons during Memorial Day weekend of 1965.[12] Spyer proposed to her in 1967, but presented her with a diamond broach instead of an engagement ring, fearing that Windsor would be stigmatized at work if her colleagues knew about her relationship.[13][14]

In 2007, the pair, both residents of New York, married in Toronto, Ontario, under the provisions set forth in the Canadian Civil Marriage Act, after 40 years of romantic partnership.[15] Canada's first openly gay judge, Justice Harvey Brownstone, officiated.[11] Windsor had first suggested engagement in 1965.[16] After Spyer's death in 2009, Windsor was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes on her inheritance of her wife's estate. Had federal law recognized the validity of their marriage, Windsor would have qualified for an unlimited spousal deduction and paid no federal estate taxes.[17][18]

In May 2008, New York Governor David Paterson had ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Some lower-level state courts had made similar rulings, but whether the state's highest court would give such a ruling the force of law, as Windsor's claim for a refund required, remained uncertain[19] and was disputed throughout her lawsuit.

Windsor at first asked several gay rights advocacy groups to represent her, but none would take the case. Finally, she was referred to Roberta Kaplan, a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who later recalled: "When I heard her story, it took me about five seconds, maybe less, to agree to represent her". Kaplan had unsuccessfully represented the plaintiffs in a 2006 case that challenged the inability of same-sex couples to marry under New York law, Hernández v. Robles.[20] Both Kaplan and Windsor were members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.[21]

District Court

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Windsor as executor of Spyer's estate on November 9, 2010.[22][23]

On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement regarding two lawsuits challenging DOMA Section 3, Windsor and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management. He explained that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had previously defended Section 3 of DOMA in several other lawsuits in jurisdictions where precedents required the court to use the rational basis standard for reviewing laws concerning sexual orientation. Since Windsor was filed in the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which had no such precedent, the DOJ had identified the proper standard of review in such cases as the more demanding "heightened scrutiny". Under that standard, it could no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3.[24][25][n 4]

On April 18, 2011, Paul Clement, representing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives (BLAG), filed a motion asking to be allowed to intervene in the suit "for the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of Section III" of DOMA. The Department of Justice did not oppose the motion.[26]

Windsor filed a motion for summary judgment on June 24.[27] New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a brief supporting Windsor's claim on July 26, 2011, arguing that DOMA Section 3 could not survive the scrutiny used for classifications based on sex and constitutes "an intrusion on the power of the state to define marriage."[28] On August 1, 2011, BLAG filed a brief opposing Windsor's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that sexual orientation is not subject to heightened scrutiny.[29]

On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that a rational basis review of Section 3 of DOMA showed it to be unconstitutional, as it violated plaintiff's rights under the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment, and ordered that Windsor receive the tax refund due to her.[30][31] Where BLAG had argued that the Spyer-Windsor marriage was not recognized by New York law at the time of Spyer's death – a prerequisite for Windsor's claim against the IRS – Jones cited the "informal opinion letters" of the state's governor, attorney general, and comptroller to the contrary along with several opinions in New York appellate courts.[30] The plaintiff said afterward: "It's thrilling to have a court finally recognize how unfair it is for the government to have treated us as though we were strangers."[32][33]

Court of Appeals

Despite its approval of the ruling, the Justice Department filed a notice of appeal on June 14, 2012 to facilitate BLAG's defense of the statute.[34] BLAG filed a motion to dismiss the DOJ's Second Circuit appeal on July 19, claiming the DOJ lacks standing because it prevailed in the District Court.[35] Meanwhile, Windsor's legal counsel filed a petition of certiorari before judgment with the Supreme Court on July 16, 2012, asking for the case to be considered without waiting for the Second Circuit's review, citing the plaintiff's age and health.[36]

The DOJ replied to BLAG's motion to dismiss, asserting: (1) its standing as an "aggrieved party", because the District Court's stay prevents the DOJ from taking steps to cease enforcement of Section 3 of DOMA; and (2) that its participation ensures consideration of the constitutional issue if the Second Circuit or the Supreme Court determines that BLAG lacks standing.[37]

On September 27, Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs and Judges Chester J. Straub and Christopher F. Droney heard arguments in the case.[38] On October 18, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.[39][40] The majority opinion stated, "It is easy to conclude that homosexuals have suffered a history of discrimination." Thus they were part of a quasi-suspect class that deserves any law restricting its rights to be subjected to intermediate scrutiny. Because DOMA could not pass that test, Judge Jacobs wrote, it is unconstitutional under the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment.[39][41]

"Our straightforward legal analysis sidesteps the fair point that same-sex marriage is unknown to history and tradition, but law (federal or state) is not concerned with holy matrimony. Government deals with marriage as a civil status—however fundamental—and New York has elected to extend that status to same-sex couples." [42]

It was the first federal court of appeals decision to hold that laws that classify people based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny.[42][43] Like the lower court, the Second Circuit held that the Spyer-Windsor marriage was valid under New York law, citing precedents on that question from several state appellate court decisions, two of which preceded Spyer's death.[40]

Supreme Court

Photo of the steps of the United States Supreme Court building on the morning of June 26, 2013, hours before the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

On September 11, 2012, following Windsor's petition for certiorari before judgment and before the Second Circuit's ruling, the Department of Justice filed its own petition for certiorari before judgment with the Supreme Court.[44] After the appellate ruling on October 18, the parties filed supplemental briefs.[45] On December 7, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case, now United States v. Windsor, accepting the DOJ's petition.

In addition to the question presented by the DOJ – "Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection" for same sex partners – the court also asked the parties to brief and argue two other questions: whether the government's agreement with the Second Circuit's decision deprived the court of a "real dispute" and therefore of jurisdiction to hear the case, and whether BLAG had standing in its own right, i.e., the legal right to independently ask for the appeal to be heard in the event that the government was not a valid petitioner. Article III of the Constitution (the "Case or Controversy clause") forbids parties that do not themselves have a real and personal ("particularized") complaint from filing a case or appeal in a federal court.[46]

Windsor noted in a statement that when she and her partner met nearly 50 years earlier that they never dreamed their marriage would land before the Supreme Court "as an example of why gay married couples should be treated equally, and not like second-class citizens." Noting that her deceased wife would be proud, Windsor added, "The truth is, I never expected any less from my country."[47]

On December 11, the Supreme Court appointed Vicki C. Jackson, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, as an amicus curiae to argue the two additional questions it posed.[48] BLAG filed its own petition for certiorari,[n 5] in order to enable the court to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA, even if it were to decide that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the DOJ's petition.[49] The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 27, 2013.[50]

Opinion of the Court

Majority opinion

In a 5–4 decision issued on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court found Section 3 of DOMA (codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7) to be unconstitutional,[1][2][3][51] "as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment".[6]:25[52] The Court held that the Constitution prevented the federal government from treating state-sanctioned heterosexual marriages differently than state-sanctioned same-sex marriages, and that such differentiation "demean[ed] the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects."[53] Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.[54] Kennedy's decision to strike down a central part of DOMA cited the principles of state autonomy, equal protection and liberty,[54] but the constitutional basis for striking down the law was not entirely clear, as it had elements of federalism, equal protection and due process.[2]

The Court wrote:[55]

Justice Kennedy, the author of the Court's opinion.
DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. See U.S. Const., Amdt. 5; Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954).[56] When New York adopted a law to permit same-sex marriage, it sought to eliminate inequality; but DOMA frustrates that objective through a system-wide enactment with no identified connection to any particular area of federal law. DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code. The particular case at hand concerns the estate tax, but DOMA is more than a simple determination of what should or should not be allowed as an estate tax refund. Among the over 1,000 statutes and numerous federal regulations that DOMA controls are laws pertaining to Social Security, housing, taxes, criminal sanctions, copyright, and veterans' benefits.[57] DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities. By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect. By this dynamic DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,[58] ... and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.[59] Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound. It prevents same-sex married couples from obtaining government healthcare benefits they would otherwise receive.[60] ... It deprives them of the Bankruptcy Code's special protections for domestic-support obligations.[61] ... It forces them to follow a complicated procedure to file their state and federal taxes jointly.[62] ... It prohibits them from being buried together in veterans' cemeteries.[63][64] For certain married couples, DOMA's unequal effects are even more serious. The federal penal code makes it a crime to "assaul[t], kidna[p], or murde[r] ... a member of the immediate family" of "a United States official, a United States judge, [or] a Federal law enforcement officer,"[65] ... with the intent to influence or retaliate against that official.[66] ... Although a "spouse" qualifies as a member of the officer's "immediate family,"[67] ... DOMA makes this protection inapplicable to same-sex spouses.[68] The liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause contains within it the prohibition against denying to any person the equal protection of the laws which equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes that Fifth Amendment right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved. The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.[69]


Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito authored dissenting opinions, which Justice Clarence Thomas joined.[70]

Justice Scalia's dissent, which was joined in full by Justice Thomas and in part by Justice Roberts,[71] opened:

This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today's opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.
Justice Scalia, the author of one of the three dissenting opinions.

He continued:

Windsor's injury was cured by the judgment in her favor. [...] What the petitioner United States asks us to do in the case before us is exactly what the respondent Windsor asks us to do: not to provide relief from the judgment below but to say that that judgment was correct. And the same was true in the Court of Appeals: Neither party sought to undo the judgment for Windsor, and so that court should have dismissed the appeal (just as we should dismiss) for lack of jurisdiction.

Scalia wrote that the majority opinion characterized opponents of same-sex marriage "enemies of the human race".[72]

He argued that the Court's ruling would impact state bans on same-sex marriage as well:

As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe. By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.[73]

Scalia concluding by saying that the Supreme Court "has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat."[6]

The opinions of Roberts and Scalia offered different interpretations of the majority ruling. Roberts said the majority opinion was based on federalism, finding DOMA unconstitutional because the federal government was interfering with state control of marriage. He wrote: "The dominant theme of the majority opinion is that the Federal Government's intrusion into an area 'central to state domestic relations law applicable to its residents and citizens' is sufficiently 'unusual' to set off alarm bells.... [I]ts judgment is based on federalism."[6] Scalia was uncertain whether the majority relied upon that federalism argument or based its decision on Equal Protection grounds, writing, "if this is meant to be an equal-protection opinion, it is a confusing one."[6]

Responses and analysis

President Obama hailed the ruling as a "victory for American democracy". On the question of how the ruling would affect bans on same-sex marriage in those states that prohibit it, Obama said: "My personal belief, but I'm speaking now as a president as opposed to as a lawyer, is that if you've been married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you're still married, and that under federal law you should be able to obtain the benefits of any lawfully married couple."[74]

Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, described Scalia's response and dissent as "intemperate", "extraordinary", and "at the very least, an exercise in jurisprudential cynicism." He considered that Scalia appeared to have been unable to resist "the temptation to use the occasion to insult the Court's majority, and Justice Kennedy in particular, in essentially ad hominem ...terms."[75]

Neil Siegel, a professor of constitutional law at Duke Law School, wrote that Justice Roberts' view that the majority relied on federalism was a fallacy in that the majority did not place any weight on the federalism argument, but rather used "federalism as a waystation" to put off making a decision on the constitutionality of state laws concerning same-sex marriage.[76]

Impact and implementation

A day after the decision in Windsor, the federal judge hearing McLaughlin v. Panetta asked the parties to explain by July 18 why the logic that found DOMA's section 3 unconstitutional did not apply equally to federal regulations that control eligibility for veterans' spousal benefits, which define "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex."[77] On July 18, 2013, BLAG stated in a court filing that in light of Windsor, they would no longer seek to defend this case or similar statutes in court, and sought leave to withdraw from defending the case.[78]

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the Obama Administration and several federal executive departments and agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management[79] began to extend federal rights, privileges and benefits to married same-sex couples by changing regulations in order to conform with the Supreme Court decision in Windsor:

  • Medicaid announced in August 2013 that "all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives."[80][81]
  • All same-sex couples who are legally married are recognized as such for federal tax purposes, even if the state where they live does not recognize their union.[80][82]
  • Federal employees in same-sex marriages can apply for health, dental, life, long-term care and retirement benefits.[83]
  • Legally married same-sex seniors on Medicare are eligible for equal benefits and joint placement in nursing homes.[84]
  • Death benefits are paid to survivors of a same-sex marriage by the Social Security Administration.[85]
  • The Department of Homeland Security treats same-sex spouses equally for the purposes of obtaining a green card if the spouse is a foreign national.[84]
  • On February 10, 2014, the Justice Department instructed all of its employees to give lawful same-sex marriages the same rights as heterosexual married couples in all programs it administers, whether or not the activity occurs in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage. Included are the right to decline to testify against a spouse, spousal privileges for prison inmates, eligibility for joint bankruptcy filing, and access to such federal programs as the Sept. 11 fund to compensate victims of the terrorist attacks and the compensation program for the surviving spouse of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty.[86][87] The policy also impacts domestic support obligations, such as alimony owed to a former same-sex spouse, as well as the exclusion of certain debts to a current or former same-sex spouse.[84]

As a result of the Windsor decision, married same-sex couples—regardless of domicile—have tax benefits (which include the previously unavailable ability to file joint tax returns with the IRS), military benefits, federal employment benefits for employees of the U.S Government and immigration benefits.[88][89][90][91]

In February 2014, the Justice Department expanded recognition of same-sex marriages in federal legal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits, survivor benefits and the legal right to refuse to testify to incriminate a spouse.[92][93] Likewise in June 2014, family medical leave benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 were extended to married same-sex couples in all of the U.S.[94][95] With respect to social security and veterans benefits, same-sex married couples who live in states where same-sex marriage is recognised are eligible for full benefits from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The VA and SSA can provide only limited benefits to married same-sex couples living in states where same-sex marriage isn't legal, with Congress required to amend federal law to rectify that inequity.[95][96][97]

According to one reporter's assessment in August 2013, despite the foregoing efforts the U.S. federal agencies are not working in concert with respect to the implementation of the Windsor ruling. Instead "they are creating a patchwork of regulations affecting gay and lesbian couples — and may be raising questions about discrimination and fairness in the way that federal benefits are distributed."[80]

Judicial interpretation

Some courts used Windsor in ways that did not address the reasoning of the decision. For example, a New Jersey state judge found that the extension of federal benefits to married same-sex couples following the Windsor decision made it obvious that New Jersey's civil unions represented a second class status.[98] In several other cases, the ambiguity in the majority decision in Windsor has produced varying interpretations in later legal decisions that address state regulation of marriage and the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Courts have disputed whether Windsor relied upon federalism or equal protection and what standard of review the Supreme Court applied. Others have used it to dismiss the precedential importance of Baker v. Nelson.

In December 2013, a U.S. District Court judge ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert found Baker no longer controlled his decision, because the rule is that "doctrinal developments" can obviate the importance of a dismissal like Baker and given the issues before the court Windsor was "highly relevant and is therefore a significant doctrinal development". It also read Windsor as an equal protection case, writing: "The court agrees with Justice Scalia's interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law."[99][100][101]

District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruling in Bostic v. Rainey on February 13, 2014, noted that Windsor discussed the deference due state laws defining marriage only to assert that "due process and equal protection guarantees must trump objections to federal intervention". She cited Justice Scalia's prediction that the reasoning of the majority in Windsor with respect to federal law motivated by a "bare ... desire to harm" would produce the same conclusion with respect to state laws.[102]

In De Leon v. Perry, Orlando Garcia on February 26, 2014, framed the lawsuit in terms of Windsor: "Now, the lower courts must apply the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor and decide whether a state can do what the federal government cannot–discriminate against same-sex couples." He then made the same point Judge Wright Allen had made, citing Windsor: "While Texas has the 'unquestioned authority' to regulate and define marriage, the State must nevertheless do so in a way that does not infringe on an individual's constitutional rights." (references omitted)[103]

A 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in SmithKline v. Abbott considered what standard of review to apply when determining whether sexual orientation can be used in selecting the members of a jury. It ruled unanimously on January 21, 2014, based on its reading of Windsor, that distinctions based on sexual orientation are subject to the "heightened scrutiny" standard of review and that "equal protection prohibits peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation".[104] The Ninth Circuit wrote:[105]

Windsor review is not rational basis review. In its words and its deed, Windsor established a level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation that is unquestionably higher than rational basis review. In other words, Windsor requires that heightened scrutiny be applied to equal protection claims involving sexual orientation.

The Ninth Circuit court also observed that the majority in Windsor shifted the burden from the same-sex couple to the government when it wrote that the government has to "justify disparate treatment of the group."[106]

Some courts have agreed with Scalia that the Windsor decision lacked clarity and proceeded to interpret it with little reference to federalism, just as Scalia had predicted.[107] When ruling Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on January 14, 2014, in Bishop v. Oklahoma, U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern described the decision as the culmination of a process: "There is no precise legal label for what has occurred in Supreme Court jurisprudence beginning with Romer in 1996 and culminating in Windsor in 2013, but this Court knows a rhetorical shift when it sees one".[108] When U.S. District Judge Jone E. Jones ruled on May 20, 2014, that Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, he read Windsor as an equal protection decision. He cited Justice Scalia's critique of the lack of clarity in the Windsor decision, writing: "As Justice Scalia cogently remarked in his dissent, 'if [Windsor] is meant to be an equal-protection opinion, it is a confusing one.... Windsor found DOMA unconstitutional because 'no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure.'"[109]

On the other hand, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, upholding Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriage on September 3, 2014, reviewed the arguments before him and wrote: "Both sides invoke the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor.... But Windsor does little more than give both sides in this case something to hope for." In a footnote, he explained his reading of the case:[110]

Windsor, in the context of the issues presented to this Court, is unclear (contrary to the conclusions in many recent federal court decisions). It is by its own terms, limited. Its "opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages." However, Windsor also references an amorphous but alluring "evolving understanding of the meaning of equality". Hence this Court's unease that Windsor merely offer bits and pieces of hope to both sides. (citations omitted)

He quoted Chief Justice Roberts' dissent as a reason not to read Windsor as a guide for deciding the constitutionality of restrictions on same-sex marriage: "The Court does not have before it", wrote Roberts, "and the logic of its opinion does not decide the distinct question whether the States, in the exercise of their 'historic and essential authority to define the marital relation,' ... may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage." Feldman found nothing in Windsor to require him to use heightened scrutiny, saying that "Windsor starkly avoids mention of heightened scrutiny." He called the argument that Windsor's use of the phrase "careful consideration" meant intermediate or heightened scrutiny amounted to "intellectual anarchy". He criticized several recent federal court decisions for failing to specify the appropriate standard of review they used to evaluate the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage. Instead he cited Windsor for its "powerful reminder" that "'The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State's broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations'".[110]

See also


  1. ^ Gill and Massachusetts were decided in separate opinions in the District Court by the same judge on the same day and a single opinion in the Court of Appeals, which found Section 3 unconstitutional. Three petitions for certiorari were filed (docket numbers 12–13, 12–15, and 12–97); all were dismissed the day after the Windsor decision was announced filed, with Justice Kagan recusing.
  2. ^ a b Golinski and Pedersen are both cases in which district courts held Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, though instead of appealing to the Courts of Appeal, an appeal was filed directly with the Supreme Court (docket numbers 12–16 and 12-231). The Supreme Court declined the petitions the day after Windsor was announced, with Justice Kagan recusing in Golinski.
  3. ^ The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims stayed Cardona, which challenges the constitutionality of section 3 of DOMA and certain federal regulations, pending resolution of Windsor.
  4. ^ The administration continued enforcing the law until it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
  5. ^ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives v. Windsor, Docket No. 12-785, (U.S. Supreme Court, December 28, 2012).


  1. ^ a b Pete Williams and Erin McClam (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, paves way for gay marriage to resume in California". NBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Liptak, Adam (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings". The New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Mears, Bill (June 27, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down federal provision on same-sex marriage benefits". CNN. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  4. ^ How The Court Ruled on DOMA and Prop. 8, by Richard Socarides, The New Yorker, June 26, 2013
  5. ^ "Complaint: Windsor v. United States". p. 21. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, 570 U.S. ___ (June 26, 2013). Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Naomi Zeveloff. "Forward 50 (2013): Edith Windsor". The Forward. Retrieved 2014-10-23. 
  8. ^ a b c Windsor Amended Complaint
  9. ^ a b c Eliza Gray (2013-12-11). "Edith Windsor, The Unlikely Activist". Time. 
  10. ^ a b Peter Applebome (2012-12-10). "Reveling in Her Supreme Court Moment". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ a b "Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor".  
  12. ^ Windsor v. U.S./U.S. v. Windsor Timeline Robert Crown Law Library Blog
  13. ^ Manuel Roig-Franzia (2012-07-19). "Edie Windsor’s fight for same-sex marriage rights continues, even after partner’s death". The Washington Post. 
  14. ^ Richard Wolf (2012-12-08). "Gay marriage case: A long time coming for Edie Windsor". USA Today. 
  15. ^ Shapiro, Lila (July 16, 2012). "Edie Windsor vs. DOMA: 83-Year-Old Lesbian Petitions U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Case".  
  16. ^ Neumeister, Larry (December 30, 2012). "'"NY Plaintiff: Gay Benefits 'Bigger Than Marriage.  
  17. ^ Schwartz, John (November 8, 2010). "Gay Couple to Sue over U.S. Marriage Law".  
  18. ^ Johnson, Chris (November 9, 2010). "Two New Lawsuits Target DOMA".  
  19. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (May 29, 2008). "New York to Back Same-Sex Unions From Elsewhere". New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  20. ^  
  21. ^ . Jewish Telegraphic Agency via The Forward. 2013-07-02 [Edith Windsor Gets Jewish Hero's Welcome at Shul After Gay Marriage Win Edith Windsor Gets Jewish Hero's Welcome at Shul After Gay Marriage Win] . 
  22. ^ , ComplaintWindsor v. United States; retrieved March 1, 2011.
  23. ^ Geidner, Chris (November 8, 2010). "Double Dose of DOMA Challenges". MetroWeekly. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act" (Press release).  
  25. ^ "Pedersen"GLAD Statement on DOJ's Announcement It Won't Defend Constitutionality of DOMA in .  
  26. ^ Geidner, Chris (April 18, 2011). "House Leadership Seeks to Intervene in DOMA Case".  
  27. ^ "Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment".  
  28. ^ Geidner, Chris (July 26, 2011). "New York Attorney General Takes Edith Windsor's Side in DOMA Challenge". Metro Weekly. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  29. ^ Geidner, Chris (August 2, 2011). "House GOP Leaders Say Court Should Dismiss Edith Windsor's Lawsuit, Find DOMA Constitutional". Metro Weekly. Retrieved August 2, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b Windsor v. United States, F. Supp. 2d 394 (SDNY 2012).
  31. ^ Katz, Basil (June 6, 2012). "Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: Judge".  
  32. ^ Geidner, Chris (June 6, 2012). "Another Federal Judge Finds DOMA Marriage Definition Unconstitutional, Now in Widow's Case".  
  33. ^  
  34. ^ Geidner, Chris (June 18, 2012). "The DOMA Lawsuits: What Is Happening?".  
  35. ^ "Windsor v. USA – BLAG moves to dismiss DOJ appeal". Prop 8 Trial Tracker. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  36. ^ Snow, Justin (July 16, 2012). "Widow Petitions DOMA Case to the Supreme Court". Metro Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  37. ^ Windsor v. United States, "Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Appeal", August 3, 2012; retrieved August 8, 2012.
  38. ^ Johnson, Chris (September 27, 2012). "GOP att'y strongly defends DOMA in N.Y. widow's lawsuit".  
  39. ^ a b Baynes, Terry (October 18, 2012). "Appeals court rules against Defense of Marriage Act".  
  40. ^ a b Windsor v. United States, F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2012).
  41. ^ Schwartz, John (October 18, 2012). "U.S. Marriage Act Is Unfair to Gays, Court Panel Says".  
  42. ^ a b Weiss, Debra Cassens (October 18, 2012). "2nd Circuit Rules for Surviving Gay Spouse, Says DOMA Violates Equal Protection Clause". ABA Journal. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 
  43. ^ Kemp, David (October 22, 2012). "The End of an Unjust Law: The Second Circuit Strikes Down DOMA and Sets the Stage for Supreme Court Review". Justia. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  44. ^ Petition for Certiorari (No 12-307). ; retrieved December 8, 2012.
  45. ^ (12–307)United States v. WindsorDocket report for . Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  46. ^ "Order List". United States Supreme Court. December 7, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  47. ^ Barnes, Robert (December 7, 2012). "Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage cases".  
  48. ^ "Order List".  
  49. ^ Geidner, Chris (January 2, 2013). "House Republican Leaders Want This To Be The Last Fight Over DOMA".  
  50. ^ "United States, Petitioner v. Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al.". Docket.  
  51. ^ Hurley, Lawrence (June 26, 2013). "Gay marriage gets big boost in two Supreme Court rulings". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  52. ^ Mears, Bill (June 27, 2013). "Key quotes from Supreme Court ruling on Defense of Marriage Act". CNN. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  53. ^ See Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694.
  54. ^ a b Barnes, Robert (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act". The Washington Post. 
  55. ^ Thomaston, Scottie (June 26, 2013). "Analysis: Supreme Court Invalidates Section 3 of DOMA, Paving the Way for Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  56. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 20 (slip op.).
  57. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 22 (slip op.).
  58. ^ See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
  59. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 22–23 (slip op.).
  60. ^ See , .
  61. ^ See , , , .
  62. ^ Technical Bulletin TB–55, 2010 Vt. Tax LEXIS 6 (October 7, 2010); Brief for Federalism Scholars as Amici Curiae 34.
  63. ^ National Cemetery Administration Directive 3210/1, p. 37 (June 4, 2008).
  64. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 23 (slip op.).
  65. ^ .
  66. ^ .
  67. ^ .
  68. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 23–24 (slip op.).
  69. ^ Windsor, 570 U.S., at 25–26 (slip op.).
  70. ^ Mark Sherman (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down DOMA and Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage". Christian Science Monitor. Associated Press. 
  71. ^ Windsor, No. 12-307, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) (Scalia, J., dissenting slip op.).
  72. ^ Tim Grieve (June 26, 2013). "'"Scalia: 'High-Handed' Kennedy Has Declared Us 'Enemies of the Human Race. National Journal. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
    Tim Grieve (June 26, 2013). "Scalia's Blistering Dissent on DOMA". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  73. ^ Gerstein, Josh (June 26, 2013). "The DOMA decision ripple effect". Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  74. ^ Bruce, Mary (June 27, 2013). "DOMA Ruling: 'Victory for American Democracy', Obama Says". ABC News. 
  75. ^ Tribe, Laurence (June 26, 2013). "DOMA, Prop 8, and Justice Scalia's intemperate dissent". SCOTUSBlog. Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  76. ^ Siegel, Neil (February 14, 2014). "Federalism as a Way Station: Windsor as Exemplar of Doctrine in Motion". SSRN. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  77. ^ Geidner, Chris (July 17, 2013). "House Republicans Face Decision On Fighting Gay Veterans' Spousal Benefits". BuzzFeed. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  78. ^ Geidner, Chris (July 18, 2013). "House Republicans Cave On Marriage Fight". BuzzFeed. Retrieved July 24, 2013. 
  79. ^ Kaplan, Elaine (June 28, 2013). "Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: Guidance on the Extension of Benefits to Married Gay and Lesbian Federal Employees, Annuitants, and Their Families". United States Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  80. ^ a b c Lowrey, Annie (August 29, 2013). "Gay Marriages Get Recognition From the I.R.S.". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  81. ^ "HHS announces first guidance implementing Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  82. ^ "All same-sex couples who are legally married will be recognized as such for federal tax purposes, even if the state where they live does not recognize their union". Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Internal Revenue Service (IRS). August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  83. ^ Hicks, Josh (July 1, 2013). "Obama administration extends federal-employee benefits to same-sex couples". Washintgton Post. Retrieved March 14, 2014. 
  84. ^ a b c Horwitz, Sari (February 8, 2014). "Office of Personnel Management announced that federal employees in same-sex marriages could apply for health, dental, life, long-term care and retirement benefits.". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  85. ^ Johnson, Chris (December 16, 2013). "Social Security to process survivor benefits for gay couples". Washington Blade. Retrieved March 14, 2014. 
  86. ^ Apuzzo, Matt (8 February 2014). "More Federal Privileges to Extend to Same-Sex Couples". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  87. ^ Doering, Christopher (February 8, 2014). "Justice Dept. will extend benefits to same-sex couples". USA Today. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  88. ^ Michon, Kathleen. "Federal Marriage Benefits Available to Same-Sex Couples". Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  89. ^ Laurence, Beth. "Military Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses Post-DOMA". a.k.a. Nolo Law for all. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  90. ^ Wadsworth, Margaret. "Veterans Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses Post-DOMA". a.k.a. Nolo Law for all. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  91. ^ "John Kerry Announces Visa Changes for Same-Sex Couples". U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur. August 2, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  92. ^ Perez, Evan (February 10, 2014). "U.S. expands legal benefits, services for same-sex marriages". CNN. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  93. ^ Holder, Jr., Eric (February 10, 2014). "Department Policy on Ensuring Equal Treamtment for Same-Sex Married Couples"Office of Attorney Memorandum to all department employees entitled . U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  94. ^ Chappell, Bill (June 20, 2014). "Married Same-Sex Couples To Receive More Federal Benefits". National Public Radio. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  95. ^ a b Glenza, Jessica (June 20, 2014). "Federal agencies roll out benefits for married same-sex couples". The Guardian (The Guardian). Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  96. ^ Capehart, Jonathan (May 9, 2014). "Fix the Social Security discrepancy DOMA left behind". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  97. ^ Capehart, Jonathan (June 23, 2014). "Social Security agency shows why Supreme Court must act on gay marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  98. ^ "Decision on Motion for Summary Judgement". Garden State Equity v. Dow, N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div., Docket MER-L-1729-11 (Sept. 27, 2013). 
  99. ^ District Court Ruling
  100. ^ Denniston, Lyle (December 21, 2013). "Utah's same-sex marriage ban falls". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  101. ^ McCombs, Brady (December 20, 2012). "Utah Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down As Unconstitutional". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved March 11, 2014. 
  102. ^ Bostic v. Rainey, February 13, 2014, accessed October 3, 2014
  103. ^ Orlando Luis Garcia (February 26, 2014). "Order on Preliminary Injunction". United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Retrieved October 3, 2014. 
  104. ^ Frankel, Alison (January 22, 2014). "Judges Build on Supreme Court's Windsor ruling to extend gay rights". Reuters. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  105. ^ Geidner, Chris (January 21, 2014). "Federal Appeals Court Says Jurors Can't Be Excluded Because They Are Gay". Buzz Feed. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  106. ^ Thomaston, Scottie (January 21, 2014). "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules jurors can't be kept off a jury because of their sexual orientation". Equality on Trial. Retrieved March 11, 2014. 
  107. ^ Baker, Sam (May 20, 2014). "What Antonin Scalia Got Right on Same-Sex Marriage". Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  108. ^ Geidner, Chris (January 14, 2014). "Oklahoma Ban On Same-Sex Marriages Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules". Buzz Feed. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  109. ^ - RulingWhitewood v. Wolf, retrieved October 2, 2014
  110. ^ a b , September 3, 2014Robicheaux v. CaldwellOrder and reasons, , accessed October 2, 2014

Further reading

External links

  • Supreme Court Ruling
  • – ComplaintWindsor v. United States in District Court
  • – District Court DecisionWindsor v. United States
  • – United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit DecisionWindsor v. United States
  • DOJ's Petition for Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Windsor's Petition for Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Merit and amicus briefs in the case
  • (2009 documentary film)Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement
  • NYU Alumni Magazine, Fall 2011
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.