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DOMA Struck Down in Windsor Case

Judge Barbara Jones, a Bill Clinton appointee, rules in Edie Windsor’s favor and strikes down DOMA as unconstitutional, ruling that Windsor should be refunded over $363,000 in estate taxes that the New Yorker paid upon the death of her wife.

Significantly, in determining the proper level of constitutional scrutiny to apply to DOMA, Judge Jones opts to use the most deferential rational basis test, even though the Second Circuit (to which her district court belongs) has provided no precedent on the matter.  In her opinion, Judge Jones cites the Supreme Court cases of Thomasson v. Perry and City of Cleburne, writing that “‘respect for the separation of powers’ should make courts reluctant to establish new suspect classes.”  In fact, she chooses to forgo any consideration of heightened scrutiny, because DOMA, as she writes, “may be disposed of under a rational basis review.”

In making this determination, Judge Jones explicitly cites a contemporary opinion by the First Circuit upholding a Massachusetts court’s decision to strike DOMA down.  Like the First Circuit, she points to the Supreme Court’s landmark gay rights decision Lawrence v. Texas to argue that, even within the frame of rational basis scrutiny, there exists a distinction between “‘laws such as economic or tax legislation that are scrutinized under rational basis review, which normally pass constitutional muster,’ and ‘laws that exhibit a desire to harm a politically unpopular group,’ which receive ‘a more searching form of rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause.’”

Judge Jones then goes on to thoroughly debunk the reasons set forward by BLAG arguing in favor of DOMA’s constitutionality, including the responsible procreation argument and the argument that DOMA represented a desire by the federal government to exercise caution when it came to marriage equality.  Accordingly, Judge Jones grants Edie Windsor’s motion for summary judgment, rules DOMA’s Section 3 unconstitutional, and awards Windsor a rebate on the estate tax she has paid.

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  • 3. ReneYPettengill  |  October 3, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you so much for bringing some updates news about this case. Anyhow, I don’t know much about this case and also don’t have much interest in it. But thanks to you for posting this article. And keep posting about this case more as I want to have an idea of its final closing.

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