The Supreme Court of the United States has heard arguments regarding California anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8. Today they listened to arguments challenging and defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“I think it went beautifully,” Edie Windsor said from outside of the court after today’s oral arguments in United States v. Windsor. “I thought the justices were gentle… they were direct, they asked all the right questions, but I didn’t feel any hostility or any sense of inferiority. I felt we were very respected, and I think it’s going to be good. Today is like a spectacular event for me. And I know that the spirit of my late spouse Thea Spyer is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of where we’ve come to.”
Edie Windsor is an 83-year-old lesbian who sued the federal government for not recognizing her union with her late partner.
“We are very hopeful they will affirm the decision of the courts below,” Windsor’s attorney Roberta Kaplan said.
Both Proposition 8 and DOMA call into question the constitutionality of prohibiting gay marriage as well as an issue that has revisited the US government time and again since its inception, states’ rights versus federal authority. During today’s oral arguments Justice Anthony Kennedy said that DOMA puts the federal government “at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody.”
“DOMA does not bar or invalidate any state-law marriage but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriages,” said the brief filed by the House Republican leadership in defense of the law. “DOMA simply asserts the federal government’s right as a separate sovereign to provide its own definition for purposes of its own federal funding and programs.”
“We got a good history lesson, one I can share with my students,” said Patrick Hickey, 32, a political science professor at West Virginia University.