House Of Representatives Seeks To Intervene In Bereaved Spouse’s Challenge To Discriminatory “Defense Of Marriage Act”

April 18, 2011 12:00 am

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House Leadership To Defend Discriminatory Law After President Called DOMA Unconstitutional

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WASHINGTON – Republican leadership of the House of Representatives today moved to intervene in a lawsuit against the federal government brought by 81-year-old Edith “Edie” Windsor for failing to recognize her marriage to her spouse and partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer. Windsor, who legally married Spyer in Canada in 2007, filed the lawsuit after the government imposed a hefty tax on the estate of Spyer, who died in 2009. Windsor would not have had to pay any tax if she were married to a man, but because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), she had to pay $363,000. Windsor brought the lawsuit with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In February, the Obama administration concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, which bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples, is unconstitutional and that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the discriminatory law in court. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), declared that the House of Representatives would instead defend the law.

The following can be attributed to James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project:

“It is mind-boggling that of all of the priorities currently before Congress, the Speaker has chosen to defend this unconstitutional law. But we’re confident that, like the Obama administration, the courts will come to the conclusion that the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ violates the Constitution and couples like Edie and Thea deserve the same respect, dignity and protection as any other married couple. Rather than wasting scarce resources defending this discriminatory law, Congress should pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would fully repeal DOMA and provide federal protections for married same-sex couples by recognizing marriages that are already recognized by states.”

The following can be attributed to Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP:

“We are determined to move forward with Edie’s case as expeditiously as possible so that the court can rule that all marriages are equal under the law and that DOMA is unconstitutional. Our client, who is not getting any younger, filed her case more than five months ago and it is clearly time for her to have her day in court.”

The following can be attributed to Edie Windsor:

“DOMA is so clearly unjust in the way that it treats me as a second class citizen. I am very disappointed that the House of Representatives has decided to intervene in my case in order to try to prevent me from obtaining a refund of the $363,000 in estate taxes that I should never have had to pay in the first place. I’m sure that the House’s intervention won’t change the ultimate result since the court will agree with us, as well as with the president and the Department of Justice, that DOMA is unconstitutional.”

To learn more about Edie’s case, go to:

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