Supreme Court Discusses Constitutionality of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

10:19 PM, Mar 27, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Today marked another step closer for more than a hundred thousand same-sex couples fighting for equality, as the Supreme Court discussed whether the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, should continue to stand.

But, many still wonder whether the country is ready for gay couples to have the same rights as traditional heterosexual couples. 

When DOMA was signed by then-president Bill Clinton, it was 1996. Alanis Morissette had the country's biggest album, the country's economy was booming, and Madeline Albright was appointed the first female Secretary of State. 17 years later, our world has changed, but will the Supreme Court agree?

Thousands of people with signs, came to the Supreme Court Wednesday, all wanting marriage as the government sees it to be redefined. But, one woman's fight, and the reason for today's argument, started in the 1960s. 

That's when Edie Windsor and Thea Speyer met in New York City. Two years later, the couple was inseparable. Windsor reminisces a conversation she had with Speyer early on, "I think I'd like to be engaged for a year and then if that still works and feels this joyous, I think I'd like to get married and spend the rest of my life with you."

After more than 40 years together, the two legally married in 2007 in Canada. Speyer died in 2009, leaving her estate to Windsor. But, because of DOMA, the now-83-year-old was slapped with more than $360,000 in inheritance taxes. That brings us to today, and nine Supreme Court Justices, deciding if DOMA discriminates.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of DOMA that it enables, "Two kinds of marriages, the full marriage and then this sort of skim milk marriage." 

Justice Elena Kagen was the most outspoken against DOMA saying, "Well, what is what happened in 1996 and I'm gonna quote from the House report here, is that Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of moral homosexuality. Is that what happened in 1996?" 

And the swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, echoed many people's thoughts when he said, "The question is whether the federal government under our federalism scheme has the authority to regulate marriage."

That's because it's always been left up to the states. Eight states plus the District of Columbia legally allow gays to marry. But, they don't get some 1,100 federal benefits: social security, veterans' benefits, family medical leave, tax laws, pension, bankruptcy benefits. 

Windsor for one, was encouraged by today's arguments. "I think it went beautifully. I think the justices were gentle, if I can use that word. They were direct, they asked all the right questions - but I didn't feel any hostility. ... I think it's going to be good."

There's another side, of course.

Thousands rallied in support today outside the Supreme Court, along with twenty conservatives from the Foxboro Baptist Church, waving signs with slogans too crude for us to show. The hearing lasted 2 hours, we could have a decision by June, that is, if the Court finds it even has the jurisdiction to decide this case. 

Still in 17 years, they have never come this close.


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