On the surface, the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor was a simple case of discrimination: Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple were lawfully married in New York. When Thea died, she left her sizeable estate to Edith who tried to claim the federal estate tax exemption for married couples. But under Section 3 of DOMA, the term “spouse” only applies to a marriage between a man and a woman. So her exemption was denied and she had to pay some $360,000 in federal estate taxes. The court ruled that section to be unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
Here’s the Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The ruling means now that legally married gay couples will be treated the same was as opposite-sex married couples when it comes to federal laws like estate taxes, Social Security survivor benefits, military and health payments, and filing status for federal income taxes.
What the supremes didn’t do was redefine marriage for the whole country, thankfully. Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, said:
The court didn’t redefine marriage for the nation. We will work to restore clear marriage policy at the national level and get our laws defended at every level. But in the meantime, today’s decision from the court means that our national debate about marriage will continue.
This is not, I repeat, not a cataclysmic disaster for those of us who take Genesis as the infallible word of God.