Wednesday, July 23, 2014
US v. Windsor Case Brief
US v Windsor Case Brief
Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer met in 1963. They entered into a long-term relationship and they also registered themselves as domestic partners in New York in 1993. Later, when Spyer became ill with a heart condition as well as multiple sclerosis, Windsor and Spyer legally married in Toronto in the year 2007. Spyer passed away in the year 2009, and Windsor became her widow as well as her sole estate executor. In Toronto, the said same sex marriage was legal. New York also recognized the said marriage as well. Unfortunately, upon Spyer’s death, the IRS denied Windor of the so called “spousal estate tax exception” which the latter attempted to avail of. The federal government had imposed around $363,053 in taxes on the estate of Spyer and wished to collect the said fee from Windsor. If her application had been granted, Windsor would in effect be free from such burden of payment. According to the IRS, under the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, same sex marriages are not covered. Specifically, the said act allegedly did not cover such marriages insofar as federal benefits are concerned.
The section of the law in question is Section 3 which provides that “marriage” is defined specifically as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Aside from this, the said law also defines the term “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex, who is a husband or a wife.”
The United States Supreme Court was asked to decide upon the constitutionality of the said Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama Administration was of the opinion that the said DOMA was unconstitutional. On the other hand, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group coming from the House of Representatives represented the side which was in favor of the said law’s constitutionality.
The said Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group was of the opinion that DOMA is constitutional since it merely provides for a “uniform” definition of federal benefits as well as who could avail of the said benefits. On the other hand, the Obama Administration contended that such use of sexual orientation as a way to qualify and specify those who could exclusively avail of the said benefits was tantamount to a violation of the equal protection clause for being an arbitrary classification.
The main issue is whether or not Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA is constitutional.
The Fifth Amendment guarantees Equal Protection of the laws to all individuals.
In this case, the United States Supreme Court ruled through a 5-4 decision that Section 3 of the Defense of marriage Act was indeed unconstitutional. The Court supported its decision by applying the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause among other things. The Court ruled that the said Section 3, as well as its definitions and terms regarding marriage was tantamount to a deprivation of the liberty of an individual – something that is strictly protected by the Fifth Amendment.
According to the Court, the said act was unconstitutional since it made way for discrimination. It was said that the Constitution prevented the government from treating same sex marriages as different from heterosexual marriages. In strong words, the decision penned by the Court deemed that such discrimination demeaned same sex couples who were just as entitled as heterosexual people are to the protection of the Constitution as to their freedom, moral, and sexual choices. It was also stated that the existence of the DOMA was actually frustrating to the efforts of various states to allow and legalize same sex marriages. DOMA was a source of inequality and thus should be struck down.