Great gay news today: The U.S. appeals court of New York struck down the contentious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as strictly that which can take place between a man and a woman.
In a 2-to-1 decision, the panel ruled in favor of Edith Windsor, an 83-year-old lesbian who argued that the law was discriminatory. Windsor’s suit — filed by the American Civil Liberties Union — stems from her relationship with longtime partner Thea Clara Spyer. The two were engaged in 1967 and married in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was unable to claim her estate, because the pair’s marriage wasn’t legally recognized in the United States. Instead, Windsor was forced to pay a $363,000 estate tax — a fee she wouldn’t have had to pay if her marriage had been recognized.
In 2011, President Obama came out (puns!) against DOMA, calling it “unnecessary and unfair.” To counter the push against DOMA, a group of Republicans from the House of Representatives has worked to uphold the law.
Two of the three judges supported the repeal, but one, Judge Chester Straub argued that it should be the American people, not the courts, that should decide DOMA’s constitutionality. “If this understanding is to be changed, I believe it is for the American people to do so,” he wrote. As Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel notes, “the general public, historically, can’t really be trusted to not act like a bunch of gay-hating garbage people.” Just kidding! What she means is that the court ruled that gays and lesbians are entitled to a higher level of protection because of the history of discrimination against them. Or, as Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the decision, “Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public.”
Either way, this spells a victory for gay marriage supporters. [Reuters]