Why Obama Changed His Mind on DOMA

Speak Equal on March 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

The Obama administration announced last week that it will no longer defend in court a part of the Defense of Marriage Act that forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

One widow’s story was one of two cases pending in federal courts cited in the announcement of President Obama’s decision, Bloomberg reports.

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for more than 40 years when Spyer died in 2009. Not longer after her partner’s death, Windsor received a $363,053 federal tax bill–a liability that she would not have faced had the federal government recognized their union.

The New York couple married in Canada in 2007 in their 70s, after they found out that Spyer’s multiple sclerosis was getting worse. Spyer was a psychologist who had become quadriplegic from the disease before her death, and Windsor worked for IBM. They met in the 1960s at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “We danced so much and so intensely that she danced a hole through her stockings,” Spyer said in the New York Times’ write up of their wedding.

Windsor is suing for the tax money back from the federal government, and the Obama administration has effectively decided she’s right by dropping its defense. The administration will continue to enforce the law unless it is struck down by the courts or Congress.

The Justice Department will also drop its defense in a similar case in Connecticut federal court with seven plaintiffs. Each plaintiff in the Connecticut case is a surviving same-sex partner who is being denied benefits because the federal government doesn’t recognize the marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder has informed House Speaker John Boehner that he or other members of Congress may defend the law if they choose. No one has officially stepped forward yet to take on the defense.

You can watch Windsor talk about her marriage and case in this video shot by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers are defending her:


Tags: Thea Spyer

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