Tomorrow, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, will attend the Supreme Court oral arguments in the case of U.S. v. Windsor, a landmark challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as "only a legal union between one man and one woman," thereby excluding married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. Nadler, who is the lead House sponsor of the bill to repeal DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act, helped spearhead the Congressional amicus brief filed with the Court in support of his constituent, Edie Windsor.
"I am thrilled to be able to take part in this historic day," said Nadler, "and to support my constituent, Edie Windsor, and the thousands of married gay and lesbian couples in this country who deserve the federal government's respect. Losing her wife and the love of her life was heartbreak enough. But having the government add to Edie's heartbreak and stress by treating her wife -- the woman with whom she had spent nearly a half a century -- as a complete stranger is shameful. Our constitutional commitment to equal protection of the law requires more; that we treat all married couples with the same regard and respect. DOMA fails this simple test, and I am hopeful that the Court will strike down this shameful law and send it into the dustbin of history where it belongs."
Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, constituents of Representative Nadler's, met in the 1960s and, after a forty-year engagement, married in 2007. Yet when Thea died in 2009 following a long illness, the federal government treated them as complete strangers. Because of DOMA, Edie had to pay the federal government more than $363,000 in taxes because she was denied the marital estate tax deduction. That deduction maximizes a surviving spouse's financial security and well-being by allowing a married couple to pass property to the surviving spouse without tax penalty.
On March 1, Nadler and 211 other Members of Congress submitted an amicus brief in the case, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the law. It provided the unique perspective of Members of Congress -- including some who voted for and some who voted against DOMA -- about the enactment of the law and why Section 3 is unconstitutional.