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Windsor asks U.S. Supreme Court to take up DOMA lawsuit

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Monday, July 16, 2012
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An octogenarian New York lesbian who recently won her case against the Defense of Marriage Act at the district court level is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up her lawsuit so that a final ruling can be made in her case.

On Monday, Edith “Edie” Windsor, 83, asked the high court to consider her lawsuit, Windsor v. United States, which challenges Section 3 of DOMA on the basis that it unfairly forced her to pay more than $363,000 dollars in estate taxes upon the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, in 2009.

Michael Key, Washington Blade

Edith Windsor

Windsor has already had a small victory. On June 6, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York ruled that Windsor should be refunded the $363,000 dollars she paid in taxes.

If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it would mean the lawsuit would skip the next more customary step of consideration before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which has already agreed to consider the case on an expedited basis.

The petition lays out four main reasons why the Supreme Court should consider her case: the case presents a constitutional question of “exceptional importance” because of the fundamental nature of marriage; lower courts are in significant disarray over the constitutionality of DOMA; the lawsuit presents an “excellent vehicle” to resolve the law’s constitutionality; and consideration before the high court before an appeals court ruling is warranted because of Windsor’s age.

“Ms. Windsor is 83 years old and suffers from a serious heart condition,” the petition states. “Because the District Court’s ruling is entitled to an automatic stay of enforcement … Ms. Windsor cannot receive the benefit of its ruling in her favor as the executor of Ms. Spyer’s estate pending appeal and any subsequent challenges. Ms. Windsor, not Ms. Windsor’s estate, should receive the benefit to which the District Court has already ruled that she is entitled; the constitutional injury that has been inflicted on Ms. Windsor, as the executor of Ms. Spyer’s estate and its sole beneficiary, should be remedied within her lifetime.”

Windsor and Spyer lived together for more than four decades in Greenwich Village. They were engaged in 1967 despite being unable to legally marry at the time, but finally were legally wed in 2007 in Canada. Spyer died in 2009 after battling for decades with multiple sclerosis, and left all her property to Windsor.

The petition was filed on behalf of Windsor by her attorneys at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; the American Civil Liberties Union; the New York Civil Liberties Union; and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

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