WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has formally ended Edith Windsor's case against the Defense of Marriage Act, opening the door for the 84-year-old widow to get back the taxes she was forced to pay upon the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, in 2009.
Windsor's lawyer on Monday morning received a copy of the court's judgment in the case, which resulted from the court's June 26 decision that section 3 of DOMA, the federal definition of marriage that excluded gay couples from recognition, was unconstitutional.
"[W]e are obviously delighted that the final chapter of Edie Windsor versus the United States can now be written since Edie will soon receive a check from the IRS for the tax she had to pay solely because she was married to a woman," Roberta Kaplan, Windsor's lawyer, told BuzzFeed.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which had heard the earlier appeal of Windsor's case, was mailed the Supreme Court's judgment on Monday after the required 25-day period during which a motion for rehearing can be filed by the losing party had passed.
"Our objective from the moment we filed our case back in 2010 was to win judgment in her favor so that Edie Windsor could obtain a refund of the $363,000 estate tax that she was forced to pay under DOMA," Kaplan told BuzzFeed. "It is now three years later and a lot has happened, including most significantly a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court making it clear that the marriages of gay people have the same dignity and are entitled to the same respect as the marriages of everyone else."
In describing the details of Windsor's case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the Supreme Court's June 26 opinion striking down the law, wrote that "Windsor paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund. The Internal Revenue Service denied the refund, concluding that, under DOMA, Windsor was not a 'surviving spouse.'"
In the 5-4 decision, however, Kennedy wrote that "DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York" — which recognized Windsor and Spyer's marriage — "seeks to protect." Because of that, the court ruled, DOMA "violates basic due process and equal protection principles."
The trial court had entered its judgment in the case on June 7, 2012, ordering that Windsor "is awarded judgment in the amount of $363,053.00, plus interest and costs allowed by law." That judgment will now being able to go into effect.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, Windsor is not the only one to benefit. Among other changes, same-sex married couples have been deemed eligible for equal immigration rights by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management has extended health-care benefits to same-sex married spouses of federal employees. Other federal changes already have been implemented and many more are expected.
In Ohio, a federal judge this past week applied the decision in Windsor's case to issue a temporary order requiring Ohio officials to recognize the marriage of a gay couple should the one man, who is in hospice care, die. Judge Timothy Black ordered that John Arthur's status be listed as "married" on his death certificate should he die.
Additionally, Black ordered that James Obergefell be listed as Arthur's "surviving spouse."
The Supreme Court Judgment in Edie Windsor's Case:
The Supreme Court's Letter to the Second Circuit:
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at email@example.com.
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