A Pathway to Same-Sex Marriage | United States v. Windsor


This video is a collaboration with Tristan from Step Back History. Be sure to check out his video about Edith Windsor after you are done watching this video. Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs Toronto, Canada May 2007 After being in a relationship together for 44 years, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer get married. In Canada, same-sex marriage is legal. However, in New York City, where Edie and Thea live, it is not. In fact, at the time the United States had a law called the Defense of Marriage Act, aka DOMA, which defined (marriage) as the union of one man and one woman. That law also said states didn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages that were granted in other states So even when the state of New York recognized their marriage the next year, the federal government did not. Thea died in 2009, leaving her estate to Edie Windsor. Windsor tried to get the federal estate tax exemption since she was a surviving spouse. However, she couldn’t due to DOMA, which said this exemption didn’t apply to same-sex marriage. Everyone’s favorite organization, the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, denied Windsor’s claim, and said she had to pay more than $363,000 in estate taxes. Well, she did pay it, but on November 9, 2010, Windsor sued the federal government seeking a refund saying this was discrimination and that DOMA was unconstitutional. While the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York was looking at the case, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would not defend the constitutionality of the part of DOMA that applied to Windsor’s case. Despite this momentum for Windsor, she faced opposition from Paul Clement and the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG, who stepped in to defend DOMA. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara Jones declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional as it went against the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Jones ordered a tax refund, including interest, for Windsor. The Department of Justice appeared to want to allow this case to become the law of the land and seemed to predict that this would happen, which may explain why it allowed an appeal from Clement and BLAG. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with the lower court. Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote, “Our straightforward legal analysis sidesteps the fair point that same-sex marriage is unknown to history and tradition, but 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.” But the Justice Department wasn’t done yet. It wrote the Supreme Court, seeking judicial review of the decisions of both the District Court and Appellate Court. BLAG also petitioned the Supreme Court to review it. Well, obviously, the Court agreed to take on the case (After all this is an episode of SUPREME COURT BRIEFS, am I right, am I right?), and they heard oral arguments on March 27, 2013. On June 26, 2013, they announced their decision, voting 5-4 in favor of Windsor. The Court held that Section 3 of DOMA, the one that said marriages could only be between men and women, was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Basically, they argued the Constitution said the federal government couldn’t step in to treat state-sanctioned marriages between men and women differently than state-sanctioned marriages between those of the same gender. Justice Anthony Kennedy was pretty much the swing vote on this. Many were not sure where the conservative leaning justice would stand on such a socially liberal issue. Oh did the Court talk trash about DOMA. They wrote, “DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” Now, we have to recognize the four justices who disagreed. In their dissent, they suggested this decision was politically charged and just not necessary- they argued Windsor could have received her tax refund if they just dismissed the case. Both Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia argued it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s job to decide in this case. It was out of their jurisdiction. Regardless, this case, United States v. Windsor, caused the President at the time, Barack Obama, to expand rights for same-sex couples who were federal workers and those who received federal benefits. The case also caused a wave of lawsuits in states where there were same-sex marriage bans. The case directly led Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that came two years that completely legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states. I have a video about that case and you can check it out by clicking on that creepy “I” in the right hand corner. After the Supreme Court victory, Edie Windsor had said “If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it.” By this time, she had become an inspiration to gay rights activists everywhere. Windsor ended up marrying another woman after this case, but passed away on September 12, 2017, just a couple months before this video’s release. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! If you want to find out more about the life of Edith Windsor, be sure to check out the video below from my friend Tristan over at Step Back History. He goes into a lot more depth than I do, obviously, about her life. And you should definitely subscribe to his channel while you’re over there. It’s one of the best history YouTube channels around. Also, remember to check out my Supreme Court Briefs episode about Obergefell v. Hodges, which is really the next chapter for the battle for same-sex marriage across the entire United States.

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Comments

  1. I love this series. I don't know if you take requests, but I think "Raich V Gonzales" (2005) would be a great one to cover.

  2. I like this series a lot,so thank you for making these videos! I know I request a new case every time I comment,so I apologize if you plan making it already.I think it would very important to do Korematsu v. United States at some point in the future as well as others.

  3. For the next chapter of the battle for gay rights in America, be sure to check out Obergefell v. Hodges: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrOfh5ii9R8

  4. Great work as always, hope you could do U.S. v Lopez, it’s kind of confusing and I’ll bet you could explain it in a fantastic way.

  5. Great video. Glad we have a President in office supporting gay marriage. As someone who is bisexual, my sister a lesbian, it is important to be seen under the law as equal.

  6. I like the decision that the court made and why do all the same sex marriage one of the spouses in the supreme court died?I'm in support in same sex marriage and it's so funny that appeal to the supreme court even though they had won.Great video too!

  7. this was an interesting case. The government should not be in the business of telling people who to merry as long as does not break other laws(consent). On the other side justices should not try to make law because that is very brittle and can be overturned by a new justice. The correct approach in my opinion should've been to get a law passed through the legislature branch to ensure that those rights are never taken away. i don't think that would find much opposition. This should be done now with all the "controversial" court decisions. constitutional notes or clarification if you will, that can only be overturned that is job of the legislature after all.

  8. this is the most bullshit that I have seen coming from the US supreme court.

    I suspect this same philosophy is why the 2A is so heavily attacked and poorly protected, judicial activism, and deliberate ignorance of the law.

  9. She paid the tax of $363,000 how much freaking money did she get in 2009 money I mean was it before Obama ruined the value of money. I am not a fan of gay marriage. But for rights such as this I think they are entitled to them. The government should have stuck to their guns with the civil unions and they should have compromised. But she still should have gotten her money back

  10. I'm so fucking sick of Anthony Kennedy. Mister beat this is my second favorite Channel but I swear to God if you bring his name up again………

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