Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Federal Court Allows Same-Sex Spouse to Take Martial Deduction

Court FightEdie Windsor and Thea Spyer were "registered domestic partners in New York City in 1993," but married in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died, Windsor tried to elect to take the federal marital deduction for all the assets Spyer left to her. Windsor paid the estate tax, and brought suit to receive a refund.

In Windsor v. United States, the court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court rejected the argument by Windsor that homosexuals should be treated as a suspect classification under equal protection analysis. If a group of people is a suspect classification of people, then that would subject the discriminatory law to strict scrutiny analysis. Here, the federal court applied a rational basis test, and determined that this provision did not even meet this standard. Under this lower standard, if the law has a rational basis to discriminate on the basis sexual orientation, then it is constitutional. The court reasoned that the provision in question did not rationally serve the government purpose provided for by the federal government. 

See Charles Rubin, Estate Tax Marital Deduction Allowed For Same-Sex Couple, Rubin on Tax, June 14, 2012.

Special Thanks to Brian J. Cohan for bringing this article to my attention.


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