DOMA No More, And What Does That Mean For Me In Maryland?

by Pessin Katz Law, P.A.
Contact

In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act known as DOMA, which defined marriage at the federal level as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”  Prior to today, this meant same-sex legally married couples were ineligible for any federal benefits, including the estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, upon which this case was predicated.  However, this will all change today, with the Supreme Court’s historic decision.

The case presented to the Supreme Court involved two women, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who were legally married in Canada in 2007.  The couple lived in New York where their Canadian marriage was recognized under New York law as a valid marriage.  Upon her death in 2009, Spyer left Windsor her entire estate.  Because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government as a result of DOMA, Windsor could not qualify for the estate tax exemption otherwise afforded opposite sex married couples, and owed the federal government $363,000 in estate taxes.  Windsor then brought suit seeking a refund in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York contending DOMA violates the guarantee of equal protection provided by the Fifth Amendment. 

The District Court found DOMA unconstitutional and ordered the U.S. Treasury to refund Windsor the taxes she paid.  The case, however, was appealed to Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where the judgment of the District Court was affirmed.  The case was again appealed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.  Though President Obama informed the Court that the Department of Justice would not defend DOMA, the Court found it had the authority to rule on the case because the Treasury Department had yet to issue a refund to Windsor despite the orders from the District Court.  Therefore, the Court concluded both parties were at risk of injury, the Treasury having to pay and Windsor not getting her refund, if the question regarding DOMA’s constitutionality was not resolved.

In striking down section 3 of DOMA, the Supreme Court stated that regulating marriage has long been regarded as a province of the States, and that DOMA “departs from this history and tradition of reliance on state law to define marriage.”  In recognizing same-sex marriages of other states and then allowing same-sex marriage under its own laws, New York provided same-sex couples with protection and dignity.  “DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect.  By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles.”  

Justice Kennedy writes “DOMA’s unusual deviation from the usual tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage here operates to deprive same-sex couples of the benefits and responsibilities that come with the federal recognition of their marriage.”  DOMA’s “demonstrated purpose is to ensure that if any State decided to recognize same-sex marriages, those unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law.”  Kennedy emphasizes that “DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code.”  “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.” 

DOMA affected many aspects of married and family life here in Maryland.  Now, same-sex married couples can, among other rights, obtain government health care benefits, invoke special protections for domestic-support obligations under the bankruptcy code, file federal tax returns, be buried together in veteran’s cemeteries, sponsor a spouse to be a U.S. citizen, and obtain spousal benefits under the Social Security Act.   

The Supreme Court also rendered a decision on California’s Proposition 8.  The Court held that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have standing to pursue the appeal of the Federal District Court’s decision finding Proposition 8 unconstitutional.  The Court explains, in order to have standing, which gives the court authority to decide an issue, the parties must suffer a personal injury. 

Proposition 8 made its way to the Supreme Court, when in 2008 the California voters, by referendum, overruled the California Supreme Court which held California’s statute limiting the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples was a violation of the equal protection clause in the State’s constitution.  Two same-sex couples chose to challenge Proposition 8, and filed suit in the Federal District Court naming California’s governor (then Schwarzenegger), attorney general, and other state officials as defendants.  The State officials refused to defend Proposition 8, however, the District Court allowed private citizen proponents of Proposition 8 to defend it.  After a 12-day bench trial, the District Court found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and ordered the State of California and its officials to stop enforcing it.  The proponents of Proposition 8 appealed the case to the 9th Circuit, which affirmed the District Court’s decision.  They again appealed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

In deciding the case, the Supreme Court found that neither party was facing “injury” which gives the Supreme Court the authority to decide a case under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.  The same-sex couples who brought suit won their case in the Federal District Court, and therefore were no longer injured by Proposition 8.  The proponents of Proposition 8, which were private citizens and not State officials, therefore suffered no injury as a result of the District Court’s decision, and could not seek redress in the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.  Without either party suffering injury, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit ordering it to dismiss the appeal.  As a result, the Federal District Court’s decision stands, that being that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, and same-sex marriage is once again legal in California. 

California’s current governor, Edmund G. Brown, issued a statement shortly after the decision from the Supreme Court, ordering the California Department of Public Health to advise the State’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the case is dismissed.  California will become the 13th State with marriage equality and as with California, we can only hope the rest of the nation will follow.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Pessin Katz Law, P.A. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Pessin Katz Law, P.A.
Contact
more
less

Pessin Katz Law, P.A. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.