New York State Bar Association President David M. Schraver today hailed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for federal purposes as a legal union between a man and a woman.
“The ruling means same-sex couples legally married in New York and elsewhere will enjoy federal rights and benefits available to other married couples, and will have the same responsibilities of other spouses. We agree with the Supreme Court that the federal government cannot justify laws that discriminate against a class of people whose rights are legally protected in their home states, nor can it interfere with the dignity and status conferred by the states in the exercise of their sovereign powers,” said Schraver, of Rochester (Nixon Peabody).
“The repeal of DOMA has been a legislative priority of the State Bar Association, and we urge Congress to repeal the remaining section of the law that permits states to deny recognition of legal marriages performed in other states.”
On March 27, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor. The case involves Edith “Edie” Windsor, a New York woman who married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. After Spyer died, Windsor was required to pay federal estate taxes on her inheritance, because the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriages. The case challenged Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by defining “marriage” exclusively as the legal union between a man and a woman.
Earlier that month, the State Bar Association joined an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down restrictions on same-sex marriage, stating that a nation that promises equal justice to all cannot sanction discrimination against any group of people.
“Gay people have experienced a long and painful history of deliberate discrimination, and this discrimination is based on a factor unrelated to their ability to perform in or contribute to society,” the amicus curiae brief stated.The brief argued that in reviewing the equal protection claims, the court should adopt a standard of heightened scrutiny.
In addition to the New York State Bar Association, the brief was joined by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, various other bar associations, other human rights groups and legal service organizations. The brief was prepared by Fulbright & Jaworski of Houston, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
The amicus curiae brief regarding DOMA is available here.
The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.
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