Supreme Court discusses DOMA
Published: Monday, April 8, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 8, 2013 22:04
After 45 years of waiting, Edith Windsor married her partner Thea Spyer in 2007. The lesbian couple traveled to Toronto to tie the knot and then returned to the United States where their marital status was not recognized due to the Defense of Marriage Act.
After two years of marriage, Spyer died, and Windsor was forced to pay over $300,000 in federal estate tax on the inheritance of her spouse’s estate. Windsor argued her taxes in court in 2009. After failing to gain the support of many gay rights organizations, her case was passed on to Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who had previously taken a similar matter to court.
Currently, Windsor’s case, United States v. Windsor, is pending in the United States Supreme Court. DOMA and the issue of marriage equality has been a continuing debate over recent years, and United States v. Windsor has provided the country with a tangible end to the issue of marriage equality.
While rallies on both side of the issue have been held in front of the Supreme Court and around the country, students at the university have reacted in different ways to the pending decision.
Senior Samantha Zbik said she believes marriage equality is one more step in the progress of social rights.
“Several decades ago, interracial marriage was illegal and interfaith marriages were frowned upon,” Zbik said. “I want to live in a world where people can marry whomever they love regardless of color, faith or gender.”
United States v. Windsor argues DOMA, specifically, its definition of marriage, is unconstitutional. According to DOMA, marriage is defined as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” It also defines the term spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband and wife.”
Both the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals agree that DOMA is unconstitutional and can no longer qualify as the law in the United States. On Mar. 27, the Supreme Court began reviewing the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals by hearing oral arguments from all parties.
Equal marriage rights are being advocated on a national scale. As of Jan. 2013, eight states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington—plus the District of Columbia, have legalized gay marriage.
Junior Liz Penczak said she has two gay friends who are in a committed relationship with each other, and she believes her friends should be able to get married just as she can.
“I know a lot of people are against the idea of not having both a mother and a father, but there is so much diversity in American families these days, anyway, that this should just be seen as another unique way of raising a family,” Penczak said.
Though the outcome of United States v. Windsor and the future of DOMA is uncertain, supporters have continued to show their encouragement for marriage equality. Red equal signs can be seen across Facebook, Twitter and other social media to symbolize marriage equality for all.
Sophomore Dylan Gallimore, president of the College Independents, said he believes the definition of marriage has to be re-conceptualized to fit modern society.
“America long ago blurred the line between church and state, allowing a religious institution to become a state institution,” Gallimore said. “In an ideal world, I would like to see these two different concepts untangled and the line between them redrawn.”
The courts might be hesitant to alter a law pertaining such a far-reaching act as DOMA, according to Gallimore.
“I think the court is hesitant to deal with a question this large and tangled,” Gallimore said. “[The Supreme Court] may find they have only limited constitutional authority on something like this.”
Sophomore Liz Catt is president of the College Republicans and a supporter of gay marriage. However, she believes neither the federal government nor the courts should create legal precedent about the practice.
The government should involve itself in issues regarding taxes and financial benefits, she said, but it is not the Supreme Court’s job to decide morality. Catt said she has seen support for the overturn of DOMA on social networking sites, but that kind of activism ultimately has little effect.
“The Supreme Court doesn’t care how many people change their profile pics,” Catt said. “They’re more interested in changing laws.”
The issue of gay marriage should be left up to the states, she said. She holds the belief that it should be up to each state’s legislature to independently address the institution of marriage.