Supreme Court DOMA Vote: Why 4 Justices Stood Up For the Federal Law


The Supreme Court today ruled on a case entitled United States v. Windsor, which involved the Defense of Marriage Act — a law enacted by Congress in 1996. DOMA states that for purposes of federal legislation a marriage shall be defined as only being between a man and a woman. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional.

The defendant in this case was the United States government, which attempted to collect $363,000 in inheritance tax from Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old New York woman whose partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, died and left her estate to Windsor. The two had been married in Canada in 2007, but resided in New York.

Windsor’s position was that DOMA unfairly discriminated against her despite the fact she and Spyer had been legally married and lived in a state that recognized that marriage.

Today’s 5-4 decision strikes down DOMA as unconstitutional, and in doing so, grants full benefits to spouses of all federal employees. The impact at the state level is dependent on state law. A state that continues to outlaw gay marriage will see little direct impact from this decision, but the 17 states that do recognize it are now consistent with federal law.

What really happened here is the Supreme Court ruled that laws which have no purpose other than to discriminate against a class of people will not withstand judicial scrutiny. The purpose of DOMA was to promote an anti-gay agenda. It held up for 17 years, but ultimately the Constitution prevailed. Laws that are passed to assert government control over morals are wrong. If you disapprove of gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person — don’t condemn them through legislation designed only to hurt and to promote hatred.

The same would apply to religious beliefs. If you choose to believe everything you read in the Bible, you have that right. But you don’t have the right to impose those beliefs on other people. DOMA passed because its supporters claim gay marriage is wrong. Why is it wrong? Because the Bible tells them so. There is no logical, scientific, or moral reason to prevent people who love one another from expressing their love and enjoying the benefits the rest of us are entitled to through marriage. And there is no constitutional mandate that we honor the teachings of the Bible.

Gay marriage represents no threat to the “traditional” family. It is not tearing anything down. On the contrary, it is expanding the definition of family, providing inclusion to a group that has been shunned for many years. Think about the logic that caused our society to shun blacks on the basis of their being unworthy. That was wrong. DOMA was wrong as well.

The justices who defended this law did their best to justify a lack of jurisdiction, but the reality is they are turning a blind eye to discriminatory legislation. I applaud the majority, who chose to take a stance against malicious legislation designed to promote and justify class hatred.