On Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, citing violation of equal protection. As the second such court to do so, it becomes much more likely that the Supreme Court will take on the controversial 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The ruling came in a case brought by Edith Schlain Windsor, an 83-year-old widow whose spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, died in 2009 after 44 years together. In 2010, Windsor filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by the Internal Revenue Service that ordered her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. A married, heterosexual couple wouldn’t face the same tax under federal law .
Edie met Thea in New York City’s West Village in 1965, and for both of them, it was love at first sight. In 2007, they were finally married in Canada. While their marriage was legally recognized in New York state, it was not recognized by the U.S. government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
In a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union, Windsor said, “This law violated the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish. I know Thea would have been so proud to see how far we have come in our fight to be treated with dignity.”