This afternoon, a New York federal appeals court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, commonly known as DOMA, which excluded federal benefits from same-sex couples in states recognizing such marriages. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, both loud advocates in favor of gay marriage, blasted out a rare joint statement approving the legal decision.
“Today’s decision affirms that DOMA deprives same sex couples of equal protection under the law,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “This ruling is an important step in ensuring the rights of men and women are not dependent upon who they love and who they chose to spend their lives with. We have much more to do, but we are another step further on the road to a more perfect union for all Americans.”
The decision, Windsor v. USA, was the result of a lawsuit filed by a New Yorker, Edie Windsor, who married her spouse, Thea Spyer, in Canada and had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate taxes after Ms. Spyer died. Before today’s ruling, married heterosexual couples did not have to pay the same taxes upon the death of a spouse.
Ms. Quinn, who married her partner after New York enacted gay marriage last year, mentioned Ms. Windsor’s dilemma in her own statement.
“Today, we’re one step closer to striking down the Defense of Marriage Act,” she said. “This morning’s ruling by the Second District Court affirms what those on the side of justice and equality have always known that DOMA is an indefensible assault on our civil liberties. Edie Windsor’s tenacity and courage throughout the fight to have her marriage, and the security and benefits that come with it, recognized by the Federal Government is an inspiration to us all. But it’s also a reminder of the road we have ahead until full equality is granted all people. I want to thank Robbie Kaplan, James Esseks and all those who have fought so hard for their tireless efforts on this important case.”
And, in a separate press release, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also blasted out his support for the ruling:
“Today’s decision is a major step forward in the fight for equality. I am pleased that the court recognized that the federal Defense of Marriage Act lacks an adequate justification and violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. As we argued in our brief in this case, the court examined the proposed justifications for the statute with special care, both because the statute burdens gay and lesbian married couples, and because it intrudes on the traditional role of states in defining marriage. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cements our state’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will continue to fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all New Yorkers.”
Update: From Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz:
“Today I applaud the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for upholding the ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and by doing so reaffirming what Brooklyn and New York City has already said loudly and clearly: love is love. It is only fitting that this ruling came right here in New York, in a city built on diversity and progressive thought. We are now one step closer to a country in which members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community will have the right to marry, just as my wife and I are able to celebrate our love and commitment through marriage. This decision and last year’s legalization of same-sex marriages in New York State both serve as a reminder of the ideals on which our nation was founded: all people are created equal and deserve to be treated as such.”
…and from Governor Andrew Cuomo:
“In June 2011, New York State inspired the rest of the nation by becoming the largest state to achieve marriage equality. Today’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit provides further momentum for national progress on this important civil rights issue. What we did here in New York can only be the beginning, and we must continue to work together until all Americans are free to marry whom they love and are entitled to all of the rights and benefits of marriage equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”
…and from Rep. Jerry Nadler:
“Now it’s six in a row,” said Nadler. “Yesterday, we found out Speaker Boehner had already wasted $1.5 million taxpayer dollars losing five DOMA cases in a row. Today, we learned that a sixth court has just ruled DOMA unconstitutional.”
“As the amicus brief I spearheaded in this case pointed out, and as the court agreed, there is no justification for denying Edie Windsor the same right as all other spouses to her full inheritance without paying a tax penalty,” continued Nadler. “Edie lives in my congressional district, and was with her wife, Thea Spyer, for 44 years. The last thing she should have to worry about following the loss of her spouse is an unjust tax penalty imposed for no other reason than the fact that she and her wife were the same gender. Now is the time to stop defending this unjust law and repeal it once and for all. I hope today’s ruling brings us one step closer to that goal,” Nadler said.