In 2007, Edith Windsor married her partner of 41 years, Thea Spyer, in a ceremony in Canada. Spyer has since passed away, and Windsor has since done the math, and Windsor has thus figured out that she was forced to pay over $350,000 in estate taxes that she wouldn’t have if her marriage was recognized by our government. Now, she’s suing on the grounds that DOMA is discriminatory, and that by not recognizing her marriage the federal government has essentially created a tax on being gay. (@democracynow)
“In the midst of my grief over the loss of the love of my life, I had to spend countless hours defending our relationship to the federal government,” Windsor said.
“While New York State considered us married, the federal government did not, so the government taxed Thea’s estate as though we were strangers rather than spouses,” she said.
Windsor and Spyer were the subject of the documentary Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, which was released the year of Spyer’s death.
Her lawsuit isn’t the only one on the books right now: Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders GLAD filed its second lawsuit against DOMA this week. We told you about GLAD’s Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services (HHS), which both challenge Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, in DOMA ShMOMA: How Massachusetts is Changing the Gay Marriage Game, One Case at a Time.
In GLAD’s second suit, Pedersen et al v. Office of Personnel Management, GLAD is representing five married same-sex couples and a widower who have been denied federal rights & protections due to their sexual orientation. From The Rainbow Times:
In both Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, GLAD’s earlier DOMA case, and now in Pedersen, GLAD argues that DOMA Section 3 violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection. GLAD also contends that DOMA Section 3 is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into the law of marriage, always considered the province of the states.
Maggie Gallagher, as you can imagine, is not into this:
Maggie Gallagher, the chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, said court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act showed that gay rights advocates “continue to push a primarily court-based strategy of, in our view, inventing rights that neither the founders nor the majority of Americans can recognize in our Constitution.”
While it seems unlikely that one woman’s lawsuit will bring down a federal law, and in fact it is pretty unlikely, lawsuits seem increasingly likely to be the way that we’re actually achieving change – from the case that brought down Prop 8 (at least in a technical and possibly temporary sense) to the Log Cabin Republicans’ suit against DADT which, while it hasn’t effected a full repeal yet, has gone farther towards achieving it than anything else. With Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court, this may be an auspicious time to start pushing these cases as far as they can go. It’s possible that Windsor’s case will go nowhere; it’s also possible it will go as high as it can go.
We’ll be following it either way.