DOMA Dumped; Dykes Delighted!
The Supreme Court made history today by striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in the case United States v. Windsor. Led by New York plaintiff Edie Windsor, lesbians and gays across the country are celebrating two 5-4 rulings by the Court striking down DOMA as unconstitutional, and dismissing the Prop 8 case on lack of standing, restoring the freedom to marry in California and affirming that all loving, committed couples who marry deserve equal legal treatment.
"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity," swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
In New York City, Windsor gathered with her attorney Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village to address the nation in the spot where they had their first press conference upon taking the case.
"We won everything we asked and hoped for," said Windsor. ""I’m honored and humbled and overjoyed to be here today to represent not only the thousands of Americans whose lives have been adversely impacted by the Defense of Marriage Act, but those whose hopes and dreams have been constricted by the same discriminatory law."
Windsor, who was with her partner Thea Spyer for more than four decades when Spyer died in 2009, two years after they were married. Angered that the government didn’t recognize their marriage, and with the $363,000 estate tax bill levied against her. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court will get all of her money back, plus interest, according to lawyer Kaplan.
"The meaning of today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is truly overwhelming, even for me as the lawyer who argued the case," said Kaplan, adding that "Today, the Supreme Court affirms the principle that gay married couples have the same right to be treated with dignity and respect as straight married couples."
The ruling has real-life consequences for thousands of gay couples, including lifting of the burden of estate taxes, social security, the ability to take sick leave to care for a spouse and the extension of benefits for spouses of fallen service members.
Across the Nation, Women Celebrate
As Windsor and her legal team gathered at The Center for this historic press conference, executive director Glennda Testone celebrated the victory, but reminded the community that there was still much work to be done.
"We joyously celebrate this milestone, and our dear friend Edie’s victory," said Testone. "But we also know that there’s a long way to go until true equality for LGBT people is achieved. Make no mistake that today is a day of celebration, but tomorrow, and all the days after, we will continue our fight until we achieve the rights of safety, equality and freedom that all people deserve."
Brooklyn Community Pride Center’s Executive Director Erin Drinkwater echoed this sentiment, saying, that, "In our celebration we are reminded that the road to equality and justice is long. Just last week here in New York, the State Senate refused to vote on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act that would provide protections across the state for transgender New Yorkers. At the federal level the LGBTQ community does not enjoy workplace protections and can be fired simply for who they love. Across the country we see many of our youth plagued by an epidemic of bullying and suicide. Today we celebrate with Edie, but know that there is much work to be done and tomorrow we will rise with a renewed sense of purpose that the highest court in the nation ruled in our favor and for equal treatment under the law."
Openly lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gathered with other openly gay legislators to acknowledge the power of the New York State government finally apologizing to Windsor for, in her darkest hour after Spyer’s death, sending her a $363,000 estate tax bill.
"The thing about Edie that’s remarkable is that she lived her life not as an activist -- she wasn’t even out of closet for most of her life -- but enough became enough," said Quinn. "She did that thing that ordinary Americans do: she stood up and said I’m not going to take it anymore, my life matters, our marriage matters and I’m not going to be a second-class citizen anymore. She has changed the world, and put us in a situation where we have the march for marriage equality in every state in the union. Today is a message to people all across the country, that this country is really becoming a more perfect union, that when our founding fathers said we are all created equal, they put us on a path to getting there as a country."
Across town, New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell praised Kaplan, who represented him in seeking marriage equality in New York State, saying, "I want to thank her for her tireless dedication to equality. It is people like Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan who will help us achieve marriage equality across the United States, and I look forward to fighting alongside them until that day comes."
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who helped lead the effort in the Senate to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and was an original co-sponsor and leading advocate for the Respect for Marriage Act, also commented on the historic decision. She said that she was overjoyed the Supreme Court ruled to end the discrimination that had been enshrined into U.S. law, upholding the fundamental values this country was founded upon of fairness, equality and justice. Because the decision does not impact states without marriage equality, Gillibrand looked toward the future, when every state had marriage equality.
"Marriage is the true foundation for strong families. Every loving, committed couple deserves the basic human right to get married, start a family, and be treated equally under the law. No politician from this day forward should try to stand in the way of this fact," said Gillibrand. "Now that the Supreme Court has ruled DOMA is unconstitutional, Congress must do its job and get this corrosive law off the books so there is certainty for all loving committed couples across state lines. I promise to work hard to pass the Respect for Marriage Act and finally put the discriminatory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history where it belongs."
And after years of work, Marriage Equality USA Board Co-President Cathy Marino-Thomas was pleased that her family would now be protected, saying, "My wife Sheila, our daughter Jacqueline, and I are overjoyed that we will now have full federal protections for our family, just as any other married family does."
In Massachusetts, where they have had marriage equality legislation for nine years, this landmark DOMA decision means the end to a two-tiered system for marriage. The federal government will now defer to the states in determining whether a couple’s marriage is legal. MassEquality looks forward to the day when all states can join them in enjoying the freedom to marry.
"This is a great day for our Commonwealth and our country as we move closer to equality for all people," said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini. "We know that families are healthier and communities are stronger when everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Today’s DOMA ruling does just that by affirming that all who choose to legally marry come before their government as equals. We are also excited that the Supreme Court’s decision in Prop 8 effectively restores marriage equality in California."