By: Rachel L. West, MSW LMSW
On Friday the Supreme Court of The United States announced that it will hear two cases relating to same-sex marriage. The court will hear the case on California’s Prop 8 and one of the cases, Windsor v. United Sates, on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Back in 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled in favor in same-sex marriage. In response opponents launched an anti-marriage equality campaign and managed to get an amendment on the ballot that November, Prop 8, that sought to define marriage as being between one man and one women. It passed. In February the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law. Supporters of the ban appealed the case to the Supreme Court. If SCOTUS upholds the lower courts ruling, same-sex marriage will return to the state.
Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as being a legal union between one man and one woman. As a result the federal government does not recognize marriages of same-sex couples who marry in a state or foreign county, such as Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. Edith Windsor and her partner of over 40 years married in Canada in 2007. A couple of years later her partner died and the federal government sent Windsor a $363,000 estate tax bill. Had Windsor’s spouse been a man she would have to pay nothing on her inheritance. In October the 2nd circuit court of appeals ruled in Windsor favor by declaring section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional.