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Case

United States v. Windsor

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • Protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
  • Promoting the importance of both mothers and fathers.

Summary

Edith Windsor married another woman in Canada. The other woman died shortly thereafter, and because the federal government did not recognize their relationship, Windsor paid taxes on the estate she inherited. She sued to recover the estate taxes she had paid and asked the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (“DOMA”), which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the union between one man and one woman. A federal trial court ruled in her favor, concluding that DOMA violated the Constitution, and ordered the federal government not to enforce it.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of DOMA on appeal. The brief explained that sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic like race and, as a result, does not deserve the same level of protection under the Constitution. But the Second Circuit struck down DOMA anyway.

The case then went to the Supreme Court, which in a 5-to-4 ruling declared that DOMA was unconstitutional because it interfered with the states’ right to define marriage. Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion recognized that the federal government has an interest in adopting a uniform definition of marriage and thus DOMA should have been upheld. The dissenters also noted that nothing in the majority’s opinion prevented states from continuing to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies continue to defend marriage throughout the nation.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies defended the federal Defense of Marriage Act by filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Frederick Douglass Foundation.

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Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
{"docs": [{"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "2nd Circuit dissenting opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/united-states-v.-windsor/united-states-v-windsor---2nd-circuit-dissenting-opinion.pdf", "Date": "11/1/2017 9:09:09 PM"}, {"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "2nd Circuit opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/united-states-v.-windsor/united-states-v-windsor---2nd-circuit-opinion.pdf", "Date": "11/1/2017 9:09:09 PM"}, {"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "District court opinion and order", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/united-states-v.-windsor/united-states-v-windsor---district-court-opinion-and-order.pdf", "Date": "11/1/2017 9:09:09 PM"}, {"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "Amicus brief filed with 2nd Circuit", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/united-states-v.-windsor/united-states-v-windsor---amicus-brief-filed-with-2nd-circuit.pdf", "Date": "11/1/2017 9:09:09 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "U.S. Supreme Court opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/united-states-v.-windsor/united-states-v-windsor---u-s-supreme-court-opinion.pdf", "Date": "11/1/2017 9:09:09 PM"}]}

Heritage Foundation report: Marriage Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty

Video: Austin R. Nimocks testifying on DOMA before Senate Judiciary Committee (2011-07-20)

Visit W3Schools: DOMA and the “Living Constitution” (Townhall.com, 2013-05-10)

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