With the presidential elections nearing, it’s no surprise that the controversial topic of same sex marriage is at the forefront of many discussions. A looming issue in same sex marriage is the appeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. He has since stated that he regrets the signing of the document. DOMA denies to legally married same-sex couples many federal rights that married opposite-sex couples are afforded under immigration, public health and welfare, federal employment, tax and other laws.
The Supreme Court will likely decide the constitutionality of DOMA this coming term using one or many cases together. Currently there are four cases that have filed petitions for certiorari (seeking to be heard) in the Supreme Court. They all allege that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional in the fact that it violates state’s rights to regulate and define marriage. While DOMA does not take away any states right to allow same-sex marriage, it does define marriage as being between a man and a woman for federal purposes.
One case that the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to hear is Windsor v. United States. Windsor’s same-sex marriage was recognized by New York but when her spouse died she was required to pay an estate tax over $360,000, which opposite-sex couples are exempt from, because DOMA did not recognize her marriage.
The law has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in New York and is currently waiting arguments in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.