Edie Windsor’s DOMA Win and Marriage Equality in DE

Kathleen MacRae
Executive Director

I was so proud to be a member of the ACLU family on June 26th when the US Supreme Court struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and declared that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.

“DOMA violated the fundamentally American principles of fairness and equality,” said Edith (Edie) Windsor, the ACLU’s plaintiff in Windsor v. United States. Edie sued the government after the IRS forced her to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her wife and partner of 44 years died in 2009. Edie’s courage and quest for equality has changed the course of history. This decision moves the U.S. one step closer to full equality for all citizens, regardless of who they love.

The impact of this ruling was especially important here in Delaware because on May 7th the State Senate passed, and Governor Markell signed, SB 75—the Civil Marriage Equality legislation. Now, married same-sex couples who live in Delaware will be treated comparably to heterosexual couples and will be able to file joint Federal and State tax returns, receive Social Security survivor benefits, avoid inheritance taxes on jointly owned property and benefit from over 1,000 other provisions of federal law based on marital status.

But the battle for LGBT equality is far from over. Only 13 states and Washington, D.C. allow same-sex marriage and 30 states have DOMA-like laws which embed discrimination against lesbian and gay families into their state constitutions. In response, the ACLU has announced the “Out for Freedom” campaign, which will do three things:

  1. Improve the national map by establishing the legal right to marry in more states
  2. Create a federal solution by litigating federal legal cases that will eventually bring the marriage equality issue back before the Supreme Court
  3. Broaden public support, especially among conservatives, for full LGBT equality

Less than two weeks after DOMA was overturned, the ACLU announced three new federal marriage suits—in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia—as part of the “Out for Freedom” campaign. The U.S. Supreme Court has the power to say that discrimination against LGBT couples is unconstitutional and that marriage laws in every state must be fair and equitable. One of these ACLU law suits, or one of the seven others already working their way through the system, will bring this issue before the Supreme Court again within the next few years.

The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.”

Windsor v. United States (2013)

Congratulations to all Delawareans! By establishing marriage equality, we have taken an important step in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT families. Now consider who you know and what you can do to help expand that protection in other states. Ultimately, none of us can rest until everyone in the country, no matter who they love, receive equal rights and protections under the law.

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