legal

Same-sex marriage: Windsor v. US

Edie Windsor, a resident of New York, had legally married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007 after the two had lived together as a couple in New York for more than 40 years. Two years after marrying Windsor, Spyer passed away leaving her estate to her wife. Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in federal taxes on Spyer's inheritance. Had their marriage been accorded the same status under federal law as a different-sex marriage, Windsor would have paid zero dollars in federal taxes. The lawsuit argues that the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution by recognizing and honoring marriages of different-sex couples, but not honoring the legal marriages of same-sex couples. In the case, Windsor seeks a refund on the taxes she was forced to pay as well as federal recognition of her legally valid marriage.

In Windsor v. United States, the Supreme Court determined Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional on June 26, 2013.

  • Sept. 21, 1996

    President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

  • Nov. 9, 2010

    The American Civil Liberties Union and Edie Windsor file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

  • Feb. 23, 2011

    President Barack Obama's administration announces it would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA because it found the law to be unconstitutional.

  • March 4, 2011

    The Bipartisan Legal Advocacy Group, controlled by House Republicans, chooses to intervene in the case and defend Section 3 of DOMA since the Department of Justice would no longer defend the law.

  • May 9, 2012

    Obama becomes the first sitting president to support marriage equality.

  • June 6, 2012

    U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones rules Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Also, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group appeals Jones' ruling, continuing to defend DOMA in court.

  • July 16, 2012

    Edith Windsor asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

  • Oct. 18, 2012

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York upholds Jones' ruling, deciding that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

  • Dec. 7, 2012

    The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will review the case.

  • March 27, 2013

    The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Windsor v. United States.

  • June 26, 2013

    In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."

Source: Center for American Progress.

Quick overview of DOMASee the timeline of the Hollingsworth v. Perry case

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