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The Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA, as it ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Edith Windsor, in the case of U.S. vs. Windsor today.
SCOTUS decided not to decide on the definition of marriage itself – but instead, chose to simply say that the federal government cannot have a law which tells individual states that their definition of marriage is wrong.
Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion of the Court, joined by liberal justices, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas strongly dissented.
The majority of the court, in a 5-4 ruling, decided that since DOMA states that marriage is, in-effect, only between one man and one woman, DOMA represented a federally sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples whose “marriages” were deemed valid in the states in which they resided.
The Liberal Wing of SCOTUS decided that the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause promised homosexual couples the same equal rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples – including access to social security, property inheritance, and family sick leave.
The case centered around the case of the plaintiff, Edith Windsor, who had been in a relationship with her partner, Thea Spyer, for forty four years, but had only been “married” since 2007. They were married in Canada and lived in NY.
When Ms. Spyer passed away, Ms. Windsor was informed that she owed the federal government $363,000 in property taxes associated with the Spyer Estate.
Ms. Windsor argued that she shouldn’t owe any taxes on the property because she was married to Ms. Spyer and a heterosexual couple would not have had to pay the taxes she was being asked to give the federal government.
The federal government sued Ms. Windsor for the tax money on the grounds that DOMA said a marriage was between one man and one woman, and so even though NY may have thought she was “married” to Ms. Spyer, the federal government did not recognize their marriage, and thus, she owed estate taxes.
The Liberal Wing ruled in favor of Ms. Windsor, stating that since she is considered legally married in NY, her marriage must also be recognized by the federal government exempting her from the federal estate taxes.
Justice Scalia strongly dissented on behalf of the Conservatives in the Court, arguing:
“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. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”
Homosexual marriage is currently legal in twelve states and Washington, D.C.
This landmark pro-homosexual marriage decision leaves states to define marriage, but also forbids Congress from embracing the traditional definition of marriage in any future legislation.
The new law of the land says that the federal government must recognize gay marriages if those marriages have been deemed lawful in a state that legitimizes homosexual marriage.
This decision can only be reversed if another case comes before the Court which challenges the premisses of the new precedent and there are enough conservatives on the Court to vote for a new pro-Traditional Marriage precedent in a new case.