June 27, 2013 – Yesterday the United States Supreme Court made a long awaited ruling that married gay couples should get the same benefits as opposite-sex couples.
Even though gay marriage is legal in 12 states and the Washington district, married gay couples did not have the same rights as a married men and women.
For example opposite-sex spouses can make medical decisions on behalf of their loved one if they are sick or dying, take sick leave from work if their spouse is seriously ill, and get other financial, tax, health, and retirement benefits from the government. Up until yesterday gay couples did not have these rights.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal marriage law that defined marriage as something between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive the benefits mentioned above, was passed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. In 2011 President Barack Obama's administration did not continue to defend the law, but it also did not get rid of it. He eventually openly spoke about his support for gay marriage in 2012.
Yesterday's ruling narrowly passed with a 5-4 vote. In deciding how to vote the justices reviewed the case of an 83-year-old New York woman named Edith Windsor who received an inheritance tax bill when her partner Thea Spyer died in 2009.
Windsor and Spyer got married in Toronto, Ontario in 2007 after 40 years of being together when doctors told them that Spyer would not live for much longer because her multiple sclerosis was becoming worse.
Spyer left all of her possessions and her house to Windsor. Had they been an opposite-sex couple, Windsor would not have had to pay inheritance taxes on anything Spyer left her; instead she was handed a $363,000 bill, which she refused to pay and sued to challenge on the grounds that DOMA was unconstitutional.
Yesterday's ruling, which just so happened in the middle of Toronto's Pride Week, an annual week-long celebration of the city's gay community's history and culture, won Windsor her case against DOMA!