In the end, whose voice was the most important to hear from? That would be the elderly widow that brought this case to the Supreme Court. Edie Windsor, 83, spoke after the oral arguments in the DOMA case were heard today. She said “I think it was great.” Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes because she married a woman, Thea Spyer.
Windsor spoke personally while ignoring the speech prepared for her. She stated “I think it went beautifully. I thought the justices were gentile. They were direct, they asked all the right questions. I didn’t feel any hostility or any sense of inferiority…I felt we were very respected and I think it’s gonna be good.”
Windsor and Spyer met back in the 1960s and were together for nearly forty years before marrying in 2007. In fact, the two stayed in the closet until that time.
Here is the clip:
NBC noted that there were some wonderful highlights from the testimony. Vicki Jackson, the law professor appointed to determine if the jurisdiction in this case was proper stated “While it is natural to want to reach the merits of such a significant issue, as in Raines v. Byrd, this natural urge must be put aside because, however important the constitutional question, Article III prevents its decision here and requires this Court to await another case, another day, to decide the question.”
Still, Chief Justice John Roberts was not happy that the Obama Administration continued to enforce DOMA while believing it was unconstitutional and stated “And if he has made a determination that executing the law by enforcing the terms is unconstitutional, I don’t see why he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions and execute not only the statute, but do it consistent with his view of the Constitution, rather than saying, oh, we’ll wait till the Supreme Court tells us we have no choice.”
Perhaps the most classic exchange came here:
Justice Anthony Kennedy suggests that the federal government should leave questions of marriage to the states. Ginsburg says the benefits at the heart of the argument over DOMA have a wide scope — with an analogy to a dairy product. And Kagan questions the motives of Congress when it passed DOMA:
Kennedy: “We’re helping the states do — if they do what we want them to, which is — which is not consistent with the historic commitment of marriage and — and of questions of — of the rights of children to the state.”
Clement: “With respect, Justice Kennedy, that’s not right. No state loses any benefits by recognizing same-sex marriage. Things stay the same. What they don’t do is they don’t sort of open up an additional class of beneficiaries under their state law for — that get additional Federal benefits. But things stay the same. And that’s why in this sense — ”
Ginsburg: “They’re not — they’re not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Social Security. I mean, it’s pervasive. It’s not as though, well, there’s this little Federal sphere and it’s only a tax question. It’s — it’s — as Justice Kennedy said, 1,100 statutes, and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the state has said is marriage. You’re saying, no, state said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.”
Clement: “With respect, Justice Ginsburg, that’s not what the federal government is saying. The federal government is saying that within its own realm in federal policies, where we assume that the federal government has the authority to define the terms that appear in their own statute, that in those areas, they are going to have their own definition. And that’s — ”
Kagan: “Mr. Clement, for the most part and historically, the only uniformity that the federal government has pursued is that it’s uniformly recognized the marriages that are recognized by the state. So, this was a real difference in the uniformity that the federal government was pursuing. And it suggests that maybe something — maybe Congress had something different in mind than uniformity. So we have a whole series of cases which suggest the following: Which suggest that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody’s favorite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some — even if they’re not suspect — with some rigor to say, do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress’s judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth? I guess the question that this statute raises, this statute that does something that’s really never been done before, is whether that sends up a pretty good red flag that that’s what was going on.”