Ruling in Historic Windsor Case Establishes Equality for Married Gay Couples Under Federal Law, no affect on Idaho state same-sex marriage ban
Boise, ID – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that section three of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act" is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married same-sex couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections. Today's ruling is a historic victory for gay and lesbian Americans and a tremendous step forward for the cause of equality.
“Today’s ruling is a momentous day for Edie Windsor and for all loving, married same-sex couples and their families across the nation,” said Monica Hopkins, ACLU of Idaho Executive Director. “DOMA is the last federal law on the books that mandates discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay.”
Now that DOMA is struck down, same-sex couples living in Idaho who were legally married in another state should be treated as married by the federal government. Today’s decision however does not change Idaho’s marriage laws. It is still against the law for same-sex couples to marry in Idaho. The Court’s ruling simply says that once a couple is married, the federal government will respect that marriage for federal purposes.
“As we work through the decision, the ACLU will untangle the more than 1100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference – and figure out what that means for same-sex Idahoans who were legally married in other states,” said Monica Hopkins.
This historic moment is celebrated by Kim Beswick, a Boise resident who was legally married in California and now lives with her same-sex partner and children in Idaho.
“The ruling repealing DOMA is a huge step forward and one that will make us more equal in the eyes of the federal government,” Said Beswick reacting to today’s ruling. “The fact is that Sarah and I are living our lives together. Our hope is…can you believe it?.... to file taxes together, to inherit our Federally earned retirement dollars and social security when we die and to be taxed and treated equally… to live with the same expectations as other married couples.”
The court's ruling said: "The history of DOMA's enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence."
“It’s important that as Sarah and I build our lives together, we get the fundamental legal and economic support of our government,” adds Beswick. “Afterall, we’ve said our vows, we’ve committed our lives, we’re raising families, we are in-fact as a community married in many cases in the eyes of a church or a State government…..and now Federal government recognition.”
The justices ruled in favor of Edith "Edie" Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer after Spyer's death. Windsor and Spyer met in the early 1960s. Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with the disease, which eventually left Spyer paralyzed. Windsor and Spyer, who were a couple for 44 years, were married in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment that they shared. But because DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing the marriages of gay people, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if she had been married to a man. Windsor's attorneys argued that DOMA denied her, and other gay and lesbian married couples, the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
"This historic ruling recognizes how unfair it is to treat married lesbian and gay couples as though they're legal strangers," said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "Edie and Thea were there for each other in sickness and in health like any other married couple. It's only right for the federal government to recognize their marriage and the life they built together."
The ACLU of Idaho for now is focusing on efforts to ensure that LGBT individuals are protected from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. When the time is right, the voters of Idaho can amend the state constitution again to allow all loving, committed couples to marry.