Yet Another Federal Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional

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October 18, 2012

It's another nail in DOMA's coffin. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling today, finding Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

Section 3 forces the federal government to deny recognition to the legally valid marriages of same-sex couples. DOMA mandates unequal treatment of same-sex, married couples in every program of the federal government, including Social Security, veterans’ benefits, health coverage for federal employees’ families, federal taxes and tax protections, and immigration.

In the case decided today, Edith "Edie" Windsor had to pay more than $360,000 in federal estate taxes after the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, because the couple was not recognized as married spouses.

Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal's Director of Constitutional Litigation, says:

Yet another federal court has found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, and now the first appeals court has applied a heightened standard of review that puts the burden on the government to show an exceedingly persuasive justification for the discrimination. The federal courts keep coming to the same conclusion—treating married same-sex couples differently than married different-sex couples is just plain unconstitutional.

We are so happy for the plaintiff in this case, who has won the justice she deserves, and we congratulate our colleagues at the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and law firm Paul, Weiss for achieving this important victory. We are especially gratified that the Second Circuit agrees that government discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation gets heightened judicial scrutiny—the argument we urged in a friend-of-the-court brief we submitted in the case.

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged in multiple cases, including our case on behalf of Karen Golinski in Golinski v. OPM. It won't be long before this bad law is gone for good.

In this video Legal Director Jon W. Davidson explains DOMA and the lawsuits challenging the unfair law in court. Watch!