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ACLU Files Challenge against DOMA on behalf of Edie Windsor

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) files suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of Edie Windsor.  Windsor, a New Yorker, met her partner Thea Spyer in 1963, and after 40-year engagement, the couple wed in Canada in 2007.  Spyer, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977 and aortic stenosis in 2002, when she suffered a heart attack, passed away in February of 2009.

Under New York state law, Windsor and Spyer’s Canadian marriage was valid and in full effect in the state.  Nevertheless, following Spyer’s death, Windsor was forced to pay a tax bill of more than $363,000 on Spyer’s estate, since the U.S. government considered the two women unmarried under federal law.

In its complaint, the ACLU argues that DOMA unconstitutionally excludes gay and lesbian couples from the rights straight couples enjoy, including the estate tax marital deduction, and claims that the federal government has no rational basis for doing so.  The ACLU asks the court to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional and to award Windsor a refund of the tax on Spyer’s estate.

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