After three months of deliberation, the Supreme Court of the United States is due to give rulings on the cases of Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry this Thursday June 27. These two cases mean very different things for the fate of same-sex marriage in America.
Windsor v. United States is a case that challenges the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The case was brought forth after Edith Windsor of New York lost almost $400,000 in federal estate taxes just because she was married to a woman instead of a man. Windsor legally married her partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died a few years ago, Windsor inherited the entire estate, but that estate was subject to taxes that would not have applied to a heterosexual couple.
In lower courts, DOMA was deemed unconstitutional because it violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws with regard to same-sex couples married legally in states that allow same-sex marriage. Although Spyer and Windsor were married in Canada, New York is one of the 12 states in which same-sex marriage is legal.
Now in the Supreme Court, this case will decide how the federal government will treat legal same-sex marriages. DOMA could either be supported by the Supreme Court or overturned. If DOMA is overturned, same-sex couples already in civil unions will be afforded the same rights as married heterosexual couples in federal laws and programs such as Social Security benefits, income tax, estate tax, and immigration. These rights will also apply to future, legal, same-sex marriages.