The year is 1965, and Thea Spyer wants Edie Windsor to know something.
The two of them date, cohabitate, and fall in love. When they decide to get married, they jet off to Canada, where it’s legal.
By now, it’s 2007. New York has a policy that recognizes gay marriages that were performed in other jurisdictions, so in the eyes of the state, they’re hitched.
Sadly, Thea died in 2009, leaving Edie a pretty big inheritance.
The state demanded about 300 large in estate taxes on this money, which Edie wouldn’t have to pay if she qualified for a “spousal deduction,” a benefit straight couples get. So she sued in the district court.
The law that deals with all of this is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Edie’s case specifically is about section 3, which, among other things, defines a married couple as a man and a woman, and a bunch of other stuff to that effect.
So the BLAG was all,
Buuuut the district court said that section 3 was unconstitutional under the fifth amendment.
On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed that section 3 was unconstitutional. At this point, the Obama administration stopped enforcing DOMA and publicly announced that it disagrees with the legislation. But it dutifully filed a petition to SCOTUS anyway.
By a 5-4 ruling, SCOTUS declares DOMA unconstitutional. Marriage falls under the provisions of equal protection.