Decision June 26, 2013 (5-4)
The year is 1965, and Thea Spyer wants Edie Windsor to know something.
The two of them date, cohabitate, and fall in love. When they decide to get married, they jet off to Canada, where it’s legal.
By now, it’s 2007. New York has a policy that recognizes gay marriages that were performed in other jurisdictions, so in the eyes of the state, they’re hitched.
Uh, New York. Right. Cute. Anyway.
Sadly, Thea died in 2009, leaving Edie a pretty big inheritance.
The state demanded about 300 large in estate taxes on this money, which Edie wouldn’t have to pay if she qualified for a “spousal deduction,” a benefit straight couples get. So she sued in the district court.
The law that deals with all of this is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Edie’s case specifically is about section 3, which, among other things, defines a married couple as a man and a woman, and a bunch of other stuff to that effect.
So the BLAG was all,
Buuuut the district court said that section 3 was unconstitutional under the fifth amendment.
(While this happened, a group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, seriously, BLAG, which is part of the House of Representatives, intervened on behalf of the government. This is important later.)
On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed that section 3 was unconstitutional. At this point, the Obama administration stopped enforcing DOMA and publicly announced that it disagrees with the legislation. But it dutifully filed a petition to SCOTUS anyway.
SCOTUS is asking three questions about Windsor’s case. The first one, obviously, is if section 3 of DOMA is constitutional.
The second one is if the suit is even a thing, because the U.S. obviously actually agrees with the second circuit.
The third one is whether BLAG even has the right to be a party to the case under Article III.
By a 5-4 ruling, SCOTUS declares DOMA unconstitutional. Marriage falls under the provisions of equal protection.