Constitutional Law Keyed to Brest
United States v. Windsor
Plaintiff married Spyer in Canada. Their same-sex marriage was recognized by the state of New York. Spyer died, leaving her estate to Plaintiff. Federal law provided an estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. Plaintiff sought to avail herself of this exemption, but could not under § 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defined the terms “marriage” and “spouse” as used in federal law and regulations to exclude same-sex couples. Plaintiff paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund, which was denied by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Plaintiff then sued for a refund, arguing that DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. While the lawsuit was pending, the Attorney General notified the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the Department of Justice would not defend § 3’s constitutionality. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives intervened to defend its constitutionality. The district court held § 3 unconstitutional and ordered the IRS to refund Plaintiff’s taxes with interest. The court of appeals affirmed, but the IRS refused to pay until ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.
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