Five Supreme Court justices: DOMA’s in trouble
The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument this morning in the case involving the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. v. Windsor, and the consensus from inside the courtroom is that at least five of the justices are leaning towards striking down that law.
The case concerns the part of DOMA defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman for purposes of federal benefits. Edith Windsor challenged that section after her lifelong partner died in 2009. Windsor inherited her property and had to pay a $360,000 tax bill because the act didn’t allow her to be recognized as a surviving spouse.
Should the court strike down DOMA, same-sex couples in states that allow such unions, along with the District of Columbia, would start to receive federal benefits. That ruling would not require other states to allow same-sex marriage, though.
Here is a sampling of reports:
From the New York Times
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely considered the swing vote on the divided court, joined the four liberals in posing skeptical questions to a lawyer defending the law, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for the purposes of more than 1,000 federal laws and programs.
From the Wall Street Journal
Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday questioned whether the federal government has the right to define marriage, a role traditionally reserved for states, in the second day of Supreme Court arguments on gay marriage.
The comments by Justice Kennedy, seen as holding a key vote on the court, came after several justices sharply challenged the Obama administration’s handling of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Some questioned whether the court should be hearing the case at all.
From Talking Points Memo
A majority of the Supreme Court justices delivered a beating to the Defense of Marriage Act during oral arguments Wednesday, signaling a positive outcome for marriage equality.
The four liberal-leaning justices and Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared deeply skeptical that the federal government has legal justification for treating gay and straight couples unequally. They seemed inclined to overturn Section 3 of the 1996 law, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage and thereby denies benefits to gay and lesbian couples even if they are legally wed in their states.
From Huffington Post (and Jeffrey Toobin)