Support for Edith “Edie” Windsor, the lesbian widow challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, continued to grow Friday as more than 15 parties, including members of Congress and three state attorneys general, filed briefs in support of her case, where oral arguments are scheduled in a federal appeals court in New York City on September 27.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Windsor, announced the multiple friend-of-the-court brief filings. Parties include the city of New York; the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont; 145 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives; the Partnership for New York City, a major business lobby; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and labor, legal, and religious organizations.
“The number and scope of the parties supporting Edie’s case illustrate the breadth of the harms that DOMA inflicts on married same-sex couples,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, in a news release. “It is time for the courts to bring an end to this discriminatory law once and for all.”
A federal judge in New York ruled section three of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, unconstitutional in the case, Windsor v. United States, in June. The Republican-controlled House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group took up the defense of the 1996 law after the Obama administration declined to defend it last year, and BLAG has appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals encompassing New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
Windsor married her spouse Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007, and their marriage was recognized by their home state of New York. When Spyer died in 2009 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis, Windsor was forced to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes because the federal government did not recognize her marriage. As Windsor recently told The Advocate, “If Thea had been Theo, I would have had to pay no estate tax whatsoever.”
“These amicus briefs show both the widespread support for Edie’s case and the lack of any basis for the constitutionality of DOMA,” said Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Paul, Weiss, which is also representing Windsor, in a news release. “Edie just turned 83, and her health is tenuous. After decades with her late spouse and years of struggle for equal rights, she deserves to see justice within her lifetime.”
The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston became the first federal appellate court to rule DOMA unconstitutional this past May in a challenge from Massachusetts. That case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and Windsor has also asked the high court to hear her case on an expedited basis, citing her advanced age and fragile health. The court has not yet announced what DOMA challenges it will hear in the next year.