Supreme Court takes no further action on additional DOMA challenges
December 10, 2012
On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will be hearing two cases related to the freedom to marry in 2013. The Court will be hearing Windsor v. United States, a legal challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which federally restricts marriage to different-sex couples, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that stripped same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in California.
The Court remained silent on four other marriage lawsuits - all challenges to DOMA - that faced potential review. This means that the Court did not say it would hear the cases (the consolidated Gill v. O.P.M. and Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Golinski v. O.P.M., and Pedersen v. O.P.M.), but it also did not deny them certiorari. It appears as though decisions have been stayed on whether or not the Court will hear the cases until after they settle the question of DOMA and Prop 8 next year.
The DOMA case that the Supreme Court chose to hear dates back to November 2010, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Edie Windsor. Windsor is an 83-year-old widowed lesbian from New York who sued the government for the $363,000 in estate taxes that she was forced to pay under DOMA following the death of her late partner Thea Spyer in 2010. Windsor and Spyer were together for more than 40 years and wed in Canada in 2007. Because of DOMA, their marriage was not respected by the federal government.
In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones sided with Windsor by ruling DOMA's Section 3 - which explicitly restricts marriage to different-sex couples - unconstitutional. In October 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that lower ruling, and the case was subsequently petitioned to be heard by the nation's highest court.
Windsor spoke with The Huffington Post this weekend about the Supreme Court's movement on her case. She told the website:
I'm this person who believes in the constitution. I believe in the Supreme Court, and I do expect justice. I was anguished about the money, but it was more about the indignation. The government was not recognizing us, and we deserved recognition. I've been eager [about the case]. I'm the youngest in my family and the littlest one always gets pushed around a lot, so I'm strong.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce rulings on both cases in June 2013.