June 24, 2013

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today that the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples.

In striking down DOMA, the court held that government discrimination against lesbians and gay men now is assumed to be unconstitutional and that DOMA’s defenders could not offer any good reason for treating married same-sex couples differently from all other married couples. The lawsuit, filed by Edith “Edie” Windsor, argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers.

Windsor and her wife Thea Spyer were a couple for 44 years and got married in Canada in 2007. They were considered married by their home state of New York. When Thea Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment they shared. Because they were married, Spyer's estate normally would have passed to her spouse without any estate tax at all. But because DOMA prevented recognition of the otherwise valid marriages of same-sex couples, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes.

Windsor was represented by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Court also ruled in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to take the freedom to marry away from same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the merits of the Proposition 8 case, stating that the private group of citizens who defended the law did not have standing to do so. This decision paves the way for the Californians to once again have the freedom to marry. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case in support of overturning the amendment.

The following can be attributed to Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director:

“We are elated that the Court overturned DOMA and effectively allowed the lower court’s decision on Prop 8 to stand as it relates to California. We believe that both Prop 8 and DOMA violate the Constitution by treating gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens.

“Today is a momentous day for not only Edie, but all loving, married same-sex couples and their families. With today’s ruling the Supreme Court has recognized that it’s wrong for the federal government to discriminate against married same-sex couples. As President Obama recently noted, LGBT people are part of the American family. It is time to treat them as we treat all families.

“All married couples, including same-sex couples, should be treated as married by the federal government no matter where they live. While same-sex couples who are married and living in one of the 12 freedom to marry states, and the District of Columbia, will clearly be eligible for the federal protections and responsibilities afforded all other married couples, access to federal marital protections will take some work and time for those legally married same-sex couples who live in a state that discriminates against their marriages, including Michigan.

“The ACLU has been working for decades to secure the freedom to marry across the country. Today, we renew our commitment to this effort. We will work tirelessly to ensure that same-sex couples can legally marry in any state.”

Key News and Documents

► Learn More | Read more about Edie Windsor

► ACLU Issues | LGBT

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