2007 May 22

Edie Windsor and Thea Speyer Marry – Then Make History in 2013

 

Edie Windsor and Thea Speyer were married on this day in Ontario, Canada. They had been together for 44 years when Speyer died in 2009. (See September 21, 1996, for the enactment of DOMA.) Because they were not legally married in the U.S., Edie Windsor faced a substantial estate tax that she would not have had to pay if the federal government did recognize their marriage. Windsor sued, and the result was a landmark Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

Edie and Thea made history when the Supreme Court declared a major provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional on June 26, 2013 in the case of Windsor v. United States, ruling that the federal government had to recognize legal same sex marriages. In the year following the Windsor decision, a number of federal courts declared state prohibitions of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, and another major Supreme Court case on this issue seemed inevitable.

On June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hudson, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage was constitutional in the entire United States under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Court in Windsor: “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency.  Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities. By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”

Listen to the oral arguments in Windsor: http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2012/2012_12_307

Watch the preview for A very Long Engagement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuLYEeug6HQ

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