Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Story Behind Windsor's Fight For Federal Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

Gay MarriageAs I have previously discussed, Edie Windsor challenged the federal law mandating that marriage is between a man and a woman. A federal district court recently held that Section 3 of DOMA that created this mandate was unconstitutional. While the media has discussed to some extent the legal aspects of this case, they have not talked about the couple that this lawsuit directly affects. Here is a board overview of the life of Edie Windsor and her partner Thea Spyer. 

The couple became engaged in 1967. Thea proposed to Edie with a diamond studded brooch. This was years before their legal battle even began and the times began to change. Now, the couple is legally married. In 1993, the couple "became one of the first couples to register as domestic partners in New York City." In 2007, the couple flew to Canada to legally marry. The state of New York recognized the same-sex marriage when the couple returned to the states. The question now is whether the federal government should recognize the legal marriage for federal tax purposes. The case came when Thea died in 2009 leaving property to Edie that incurred about $363,000 in estate taxes.

Normally, a married heterosexual couple, usually, does not incur any taxes because they can use the federal estate tax exemption. This deduction is not provided to same-sex couples. Edie won the first battle at the federal district court. Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear the case. In fact, the Court is set to hear the case in its next year. The Obama administration has already declared that they will not defend the law, and so the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has taken up defending the law. Defenders of the law have argued that the law is representative of Congress's recognition that children should be raised by both a mother and a father.

See Manuel Roig-Franzia, Edie Windsor's Fight For Same-Sex Marriage Rights Continues, Even After Partner's Death, Washington Post, July 19, 2012; see also Julie Bolcer, The Fight of Edith Windsor's Life, Advocate.com, Sept. 10, 2012.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) and Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.)  for bringing this article to my attention.


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