United States v. Windsor

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United States v. Windsor
Argued March 27, 2013
Decided June 26, 2013
Full case nameUnited States, Petitioner v. Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al.
Docket nos.12-307
Citations570 U.S. ___ (more)
133 S.Ct. 2675; 186 L.Ed.2d 808
Related cases
ArgumentOral argument
Opinion announcementOpinion announcement
Prior historyDOMA declared unconstitutional sub. nom. Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012); Affirmed, 699 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2012)
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause's guarantee of equal protection. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states. The judgment of the Second Circuit is affirmed.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John G. Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
MajorityKennedy, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
DissentScalia, joined by Thomas; Roberts (part I)
DissentAlito, joined by Thomas (parts II, III)
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Art. III, U.S. Const. amend. V; Defense of Marriage Act § 3

United States v. Windsor was a court case heard by the United States Supreme Court. The court's decision was historically important for marriage law in the U.S.[1][2][3] It was also important for LGBT rights.

The court decided that defining "marriage" as a union between one man and one woman (as husband and wife) was unconstitutional (against the Constitution). This specifically related to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law passed in 1996. This defined "marriage" for federal (national) law in the United States. It defined it as being between one man and one woman. In United States v. Windsor, the court decided that this definition was against the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In the U.S., the Constitution protects the rights of citizens, and no individual law can take those rights away.

The basis for the case was the right to benefits for same-sex married couples; the same right held by heterosexual married couples. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple living in New York, were married in Canada in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, leaving everything she owned to Windsor. Under the law, widows do not have to pay tax on anything they inherited from their dead spouse. Windsor tried to claim this exemption. She was barred from doing so by Section 3 of DOMA, which said that the word "spouse" only applies to a marriage between a man and woman. The Internal Revenue Service denied Windsor's claim, and demanded that she pay $363,053 in inheritance taxes.

After Windsor won the case, Time magazine named her the third most influential person of the year in 2013.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Pete Williams and Erin McClam (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, paves way for gay marriage to resume in California". NBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  2. Liptak, Adam (June 26, 2013). "Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings". The New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  3. Mears, Bill (June 27, 2013). "Supreme Court strikes down federal provision on same-sex marriage benefits". CNN. Retrieved June 29, 2013.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Gill and Massachusetts were decided in separate opinions in the District Court by the same judge on the same day and a single opinion in the Court of Appeals, which found Section 3 unconstitutional. Three petitions for certiorari were filed (docket numbers 12–13, 12–15, and 12–97); all were dismissed the day after the Windsor decision was announced filed, with Justice Kagan recusing.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Golinski and Pedersen are both cases in which district courts held Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, though instead of appealing to the Courts of Appeal, an appeal was filed directly with the Supreme Court (docket numbers 12–16 and 12-231). The Supreme Court declined the petitions the day after Windsor was announced, with Justice Kagan recusing in Golinski.
  3. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims stayed Cardona, which challenges the constitutionality of section 3 of DOMA and certain federal regulations, pending resolution of Windsor.