Constitutional Law

Federal Judge Strikes Down Portion of DOMA in Estate Tax Case

A federal judge in Manhattan has struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in a case involving estate taxes.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones ruled that the provision denying equal federal benefits to gay married couples violates the equal protection clause, report the New York Law Journal, SCOTUSblog and an ACLU press release.

The suit was filed by Edith Windsor of New York, who was assessed more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes because the federal government did not recognize her Canadian marriage to Thea Spyer, who died in 2009. Windsor would not have had to pay any taxes if the marriage had been recognized.

Jones used a variation of rational basis scrutiny to evaluate the DOMA provision, but still found justifications for the law to be inadequate. The decision is the fourth time a federal court has struck down the law’s Section 3.

Prior coverage: “1st Circuit Strikes Down Section of DOMA Law Denying Federal Benefits to Gay Couples” “Judge Rules for 9th Circuit Staff Lawyer Seeking Federal Health Benefits for Same-Sex Spouse”

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