A New York Federal Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

The Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same sex couples ruled a New York Federal Court.

Edith Windsor sued the federal government because it failed to recognize her Canadian marriage to Thea Speyer. Speyer died, leaving her estate to Windsor. Normally, inherited property would pass between spouses without the imposition of estate taxes, but, because DOMA prevents recognition of same sex marriages, the estate was assessed $363,000 in estate taxes.

In striking down DOMA, Judge Barbara Jones wrote:

DOMA does not affect the state laws that govern marriage. Precisely because the decision of whether same-sex couples can marry is left to the states, DOMA does not, strictly speaking, “preserve” the institution of marriage as one between a man and a woman. The statute creates a federal definition of marriage. But that definition does not give content to the fundamental right to marry–and it is the substance of that right, not its facial definition, that actually shapes the institution of marriage.

In her decision, the Judge also noted that she could not discern a logical relationship between DOMA and the government’s goals of promoting family values and responsible parenting.


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