Today, a federal appeals court again ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
This is very encouraging news for Edie Windsor, whose case demands justice. Edie and her partner, Thea, were together for 44 years, and their marriage was recognized by the state of New York. But, after Thea passed away in 2009, Edie was forced to pay enormous estate taxes because the federal government, due to DOMA, treated the couple as legal strangers. Edie and Thea were the subjects of the wonderful documentary, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, and Edie has been bravely fighting for fairness.
Additionally, this is the first federal appeals court decision in which discrimination against gay people has been given "heightened scrutiny," a level of judicial review that makes it more difficult for the government to make the case that discrimination is justified.
Said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project:
“Edie and Thea were there for each other in sickness and in health like any other married couple, and it’s unfair for the government to disregard both their marriage and the life they built together and treat them like second-class citizens.”
Edie has said that Thea would be "proud to see how far we have come in our fight to be treated with dignity.” And Edie has much to be proud of for standing up for her rights and for the rights of all same-sex couples.
The case has been petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court has not yet decided whether to take it or any of the other pending DOMA challenges. We hope, for Edie's sake, and for the sake of all couples awaiting equal treatment by the federal government, that DOMA will soon be ruled unconstitutional once and for all.
The ACLU has more information on today's decision.