New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn filed a brief Wednesday joining their constituent, Edith Windsor, in asking the Supreme Court to hear her challenge against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Windsor, 83, is suing the federal government over $363,000 in estate taxes she was forced to pay after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The couple was together for more than 40 years and had married in Canada in 2007, but because of section 3 of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their marriage.
U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones of New York found the law unconstitutional in a ruling last month. The case is on an expedited appeal schedule in the Second Circuit, but earlier this month, Windsor petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case now. Her brief stated that the case "presents a question of exceptional national importance: the constitutionality of a statute, the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), that daily affects the lives of thousands of Americans."
In their brief, Bloomberg and Quinn argue that DOMA violates equal protection and "fatally undermines" the city's extensive efforts to protect same-sex couples from discrimination. Figures released Tuesday on the first anniversary of the New York marriage equality law taking effect estimate that more than 10,000 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses in the state in the past year, with the majority issued in New York City.
"The City of New York has a particular interest in the outcome of this case because DOMA deprives married same-sex couples living in New York City of equal protection for their lawful marriages," they wrote. "This forces the City to be the unwilling agent of federally-required separate treatment of lawfully married City employees, thus undermining the City's marriage recognition and anti-discrimination policies. The City's interests are aligned with those of the petitioner in establishing that, by depriving legally married same-sex couples of many substantial benefits available to married opposite-sex couples, DOMA violates the United States Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws."
Bloomberg and Quinn announced their plan to file a brief last month at the mayor's LGBT Pride celebration. It marks the first time the city has filed its own brief against DOMA, following a brief filed by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman in the case last year. Windsor lives in Greenwich Village, an area represented by Quinn.
In a telephone interview, Quinn, who married her partner in May, told The New York Times that, "There is no city with a louder and more important voice than the City of New York" on the issue of same-sex marriage.
"This deserves to be heard by the highest court," she said. "It runs so counter to the concept of what it means to be an American."
Bloomberg said in a statement, "Government has no business treating one group different than another and New York City will continue to stand against DOMA for such discrimination."
The case is one of three the Supreme Court has been asked to hear in the past month. Petitions have also been filed in the consolidated case from Massachusetts, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. HHS, and in the Golinski v. OPM case from California. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group controlled by House Republicans is defending the law, after the Obama administration announced last year it would no longer defend DOMA.