Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down DOMA As Unconstitutional
This is the first federal appeals court decision to decide that government discrimination against gay people gets a more exacting level of judicial review, known as “heightened scrutiny.”
The law had been challenged by Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer, after Spyer’s death in 2009. Windsor and Spyer, who were a couple for 44 years, were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York.
“This law violated the fundamental American principle of fairness that we all cherish,” said Windsor. “I know Thea would have been so proud to see how far we have come in our fight to be treated with dignity.”
In her lawsuit, Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers.
Windsor's lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, said in a statement regarding Thursday's DOMA ruling:
"Today's ruling is another step towards ending an unjust, unconstitutional and un-American piece of legislation. Next stop, Supreme Court. Politicians and judges have no business telling anyone who they can love and who they can marry. Today's ruling is yet another step in this country's movement towards equality. We applaud the ruling and will continue to work every day until efforts to legally discriminate, like DOMA and Prop 8, have been fully defeated."
Memphis City Council Approves Nondiscrimination Ordinance
According to Councilman Shea Flinn, who co-sponsored the legislation along with colleague Councilman Lee Harris, with this vote the council effectively ended a debate that began in 2010.
"City of Memphis employees will go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning to hear the news that their hard work will be respected and their ability to contribute to their community will be preserved," said Jonathan Cole, vice president of the Tennessee Equality Project, one of the backers of the legislation. "It's a new day in Memphis, Tennessee."The legislation applies only to employment by the city of Memphis, not private individuals or groups that may contract with the city. Virginia Awkward, a gay city employee, said,
“I’ve experienced myself and I’ve witnessed other colleagues of mine be discriminated against. And now that there’s something in place that can protect those people – exactly what I do on my job every day – I’m just elated, and I’m proud of the city of Memphis today.”One of those opposed to the council's bill, Paul Houghland, representing the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), said,
“What they’ve done is elevate a small segment of the population and given them special status. They were already covered.” He added that the legislation was the first item in a gay and lesbian political agenda that could erode the traditional family and lead to more legislation, such as city benefits for same-sex couples. "We're on a slippery slope," he said.Memphis is now the third largest city in Tennessee to provide LGBT people such workplace protections, following Nashville and Knoxville.