New York appeals court deems DOMA unconstitutional
Gay rights activists and elected officials say Thursday's appeals court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is huge step towards equal legal rights for same-sex couples and will lead to immediate change at the federal level.
A U.S. Appeals court judge for the Second District Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional and the 83-year-old plaintiff was entitled to tax benefits that heterosexual married couples currently enjoy.
James Esseks, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT project, said he was confident that Edith "Edie" Windsor's case would go before the Supreme Court this year. The First District Court in New England made a similar ruling and Esseks said the decisions have made huge blips in the legal radar.
"The Supreme Court can't just let that sit there, because it can't have DOMA deemed unconstitutional in the East Coast and constitutional everywhere else," he said.
Under DOMA's rules, Windsor had to pay $363,000 in estate tax following the 2009 death of her wife, Thea Spyer, because their union wasn't recognized.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who submitted a joint amicus brief in June in support of Windsor's constitutional challenge, praised the decision.
"This ruling is an important step in ensuring the rights of men and women are not dependent upon who they love and who they chose to spend their lives with," the mayor said in a statement.
Windsor, who wore the broach her partner gave her as an engagement present more than 40 years ago during a news conference Thursday about the decision, said she is willing to continue the fight in the higher court.
"I look forward to the day that our fed government will recognize all the marriages of all Americans. Hopefully that will happen during my lifetime," she said.