For those who missed the big news last week, the prestigious NY Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declared the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, joining a second federal appeals court and five lower federal district courts in overturning this discriminatory law. The Court suggests that the discrimination suffered by gays and lesbians is similar to that faced by women in the 1970’s. The federal appeals court ruled that gay Americans are a class of people who deserve the same kinds of constitutional protections as many other victims of discrimination.”
The case involves Edie Windsor, a New York woman who challenged the federal government to recognize her New York-based marriage. In its decision, the court found unconstitutional the section of DOMA that requires the federal government to treat legally married same-sex couples as single, for heaven’s sake.
Ms. Windsor of New York City, was married to her longtime partner, Thea Clara Spyer, who died in 2009, leaving Ms. Windsor her property, but the Internal Revenue Service was not permitted to consider her a surviving spouse under the Defense of Marriage Act, for the purpose of inheriting her property, so she faced a tax bill of $363,053., that she would not have had to pay if the marriage had been recognized under the law.
The decision blessedly states that: “the law (federal or state) is not concerned with holy matrimony. Government deals with marriage as a civil status–however fundamental–and New York has elected to extend that status to same-sex couples. A state may enforce and dissolve a couple’s marriage, but it cannot sanctify or bless it.” Amen. Next, the Defense of Marriage Act heads to the US Supreme Court, where 4 of the 9 justices are openly in favor of this homophobic law, so it’s lifespan and the extreme suffering generated by it may continue unabated. Should Mitt Romney be elected President, his next two lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court will surely be judges who are hostile toward individual human rights, thereby setting us back decades from the hard won advances in civil rights for women as well as for gay and lesbian couples.