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United States vs. Windsor . By: Taylor Beshel . U.S. vs. Windsor. Argued: March 27, 2013 Decided: June 26, 2013. The Back Story. Edith Windsor was married to Thea Clara Spyer in Toronto, Canada, in 2007 Marriage was recognized by New York state law

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United states vs windsor

United States vs. Windsor

By: Taylor Beshel

U s vs windsor
U.S. vs. Windsor

  • Argued: March 27, 2013

  • Decided: June 26, 2013

The back story
The Back Story

  • Edith Windsor was married to Thea Clara Spyer in Toronto, Canada, in 2007

  • Marriage was recognized by New York state law

  • Spyer died in 2009, left her estate to her spouse

  • Marriage was not recognized by federal law

  • Government forced Windsor $363,053 in taxes

  • Had the marriage been recognized no taxes would have been forced upon Windsor

  • On 11/9/10 Windsor filed suit in district court seeking declaration that the DOMA was unconstitutional

Public policy
Public Policy

  • Marriage Equality Act: New York State

  • 1. A marriage is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex

  • Federal Law:

  • “As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on the US vs. Windsor case, for federal tax purposes IRS will recognize a marriage between a same-sex couple that is a legal marriage under the laws of the jurisdiction (domestic or foreign) where the marriage was performed” :(New York State: Department of taxation and finance)

Irs denied windsor
IRS denied Windsor

  • IRS denied Windsor the use of spousal estate tax exemption on the circumstances that under DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), the federal government did not recognize same sex marriages for the purpose of federal benefits

Bipartisan legal advisory group
Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group

  • Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) from House of Representatives is defending DOMA

  • Arguing: DOMA is corresponding to the lawful government intention of providing a stable definition of marriage for federal benefit purposes

Section 3 doma
Section 3 DOMA

  • Section 3 DOMA defines the term “marriage” for all purposes under federal law, including the action for federal benefits as “only a legal union between one man and one women as husband and wife.” 1 U.S.C. 7

Plaintiff arguments
Plaintiff Arguments

  • Windsor argues that DOMA is unconstitutional as it overlooks on her right to equal protection under the 5th amendment

  • Edith is seeking a refund of the estate tax she was unfairly forced to pay

Defendant arguments
Defendant Arguments

  • BLAG argues that DOMA is constitutional

  • The law should undergo minimal scrutiny observation under rational bias test because sexual orientation is not a historically protected class

What s the big q uestion
What’s the Big Question?

  • Question being presented:

  • Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the fifth amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their state?

Amicus curiae
Amicus Curiae

  • Court appointed an amicus curiae against the court’s jurisdiction of Windsor's case

  • Because of procedural posture, the amicus curiae argues that BLAG lacks standing because there is no injury to congress if DOMA is overturned

  • BLAG would be performing an executive act that violates separation of powers principles

The decision
The Decision

  • 5-4 decision- Supreme Court found section 3 DOMA to be unconstitutional

  • “As a deprivation of the liberty of the person being protected by the fifth amendment” said by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored majority opninion

Key aspects of decision making
Key Aspects of Decision Making

  • Justice Kennedy says “DOMA’s mission is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal”

  • DOMA undetermines both public and private importance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages

  • It tells couples that their otherwise valid marriage are unworthy of federal recognition


  • Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Justice Clearence Thomas authored dissenting opinion

  • Chief Justice Roberts says “This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”

Long term effects
Long Term Effects

  • This case effected what role the federal government can play in defining marriage and who in the federal government can defend the government’s laws

  • Same-sex couples will be given equal protection by federal government concerning federal benefits


  • http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2012/2012_12_307

  • http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/windsor-v-united-states-2/

  • http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-307

  • https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/windsor-v-united-states-thea-edie-doma