The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined yesterday that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, ruling in favor of widow Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government for charging her more than $363,000 in estate taxes after being denied the benefit of spousal deductions. If she had been married to a man, she would not have had to pay the estate tax.
The court upheld a lower court's decision in a 2-1 majority ruling and determined that America's gay population "has suffered a history of discrimination" similar to that faced by women in years past.
Richard Socarides, former LGBT adviser to President Clinton and former president of Equality Matters, joined "Viewpoint" host Eliot Spitzer to react to the news in the case of Windsor v. United States. He thinks that the issue will be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court by the end of net summer. "If this ruling and its rationale are upheld, what that means is that any kind of classification based upon sexual orientation in any law anywhere in this country probably will not withstand a direct constitutional challenge because you won't be able to justify it any longer."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, declared in a press release, "This is yet another example of judicial activism and elite judges imposing their views on the American people, and further demonstrates why it is imperative for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in the currently pending DOMA cases as well as to the Proposition 8 case. The American people are entitled to a definitive ruling in support of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, as 32 states have determined through popular vote."
Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress reports that Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, who wrote the opinion for the federal appeals court, is a very conservative judge and that this is the second time that a conservative court found DOMA to be unconstitutional. In May, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.
After President Barack Obama announced last year that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend it. House Republicans have spent approximately $1.5 million to defend DOMA, an expenditure criticized by House Democrats.