Windsor deals with Edith Windsor's claim that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. She won at trial and in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Edith and her late spouse, Thea Spyer, were married in Canada (see my earlier post).
After Thea died Edith owed over $320,000 in federal estate tax. Had their marriage been recognized by the federal government the amount owed would have been $0--just like any other married couple. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages--even when the marriages are recognized in the taxpayer's state of residence.
So, the Supreme Court will consider the appeal. No one is sure what will happen or what the vote will be, but the next few months will be an interesting and tense time.
One big issue is whether the court will declare section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional across the board and require the feds to recognize same-sex marriages in every state; even those that prohibit recognition. And, what impact it will have on couples living in Civil Union and Domestic Partnership states.
The Hollingsworth case comes out of California and deals with Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that prohibited same-sex marriage. The 9th Circuit decision was written with Justice Kennedy in mind and is narrowly drawn.
One issue that may preclude any definitive decision is if the court decides neither the Prop 8 proponents appealing in Hollingsworth or the U.S. Housing of Representatives appealing in Windsor have the right to appeal. The Court could dismiss both appeals without addressing the merits. It would be tantamount to a judicial kicking the can down the road. Stay tuned.