Home / Couples and Families / Edie Wins! Another Ruling Against DOMA, What It Means

Edie Wins! Another Ruling Against DOMA, What It Means

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Q: What happened with Edie Windsor‘s Second Circuit case today?

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Edie Windsor, the widow of Thea Spyer. When Thea died, Edie paid $363,000 in taxes on what Thea left to her, which she would not have had to pay if the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) didn’t exist. Today, the court ruled in favor of Edie. Edie’s lawyers – part of the same team that is working on our case for binational couples — challenged part of DOMA in federal court and won. The House Republicans (“BLAG”) had appealed that decision, and today, the Circuit Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling and held that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

Q: Haven’t a lot of other courts already said that?

Yes – several other courts have said that DOMA is unconstitutional. This is the first time, however, that this court has ruled on DOMA. The Circuit courts are right below the Supreme Court, and the Second Circuit governs federal law in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. This is the second time a Circuit court has ruled on DOMA. (The other time was in the First Circuit, which found DOMA unconstitutional in the Gill case earlier this year.)

Q. Why is today’s ruling significant?

Today’s decision is the first time a federal court has applied “heightened scrutiny” in a sexual orientation case. Now that there are two Circuit court decisions finding DOMA unconstitutional, it is almost certain that the Supreme Court will agree to hear one (or more) DOMA cases soon.

Q: What is “heightened scrutiny?”

Heightened scrutiny means that the government agrees that decisions made for a certain minority group by the majority must be looked at more carefully because the minority doesn’t always have the power to defend itself against the majority. This is the first time that a federal court has held that LGBT people should get “heightened scrutiny,” which means that the government has to meet a higher burden to justify treating LGBT people differently. This is a very big deal: it’s what the Obama Justice Department recommended in February, 2011, and today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. It’s an important precedent that will help LGBT people in employment discrimination and other claims, not just marriage and DOMA cases.

Q: So does Edie Windsor get her money back?  And can I file a green card application?

Not yet. Unfortunately, it is not likely that anyone will get benefits denied by DOMA until there is a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is already pending for possible appeal before the Supreme Court. Most lawyers expect the Supreme Court will agree to hear Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, a similar case on behalf of married couples in Massachusetts; they may hear Edie’s case as well. She won’t get her money back — and DOMA will not be invalidated -— until the Supreme Court either hears the cases and decides them, or announces that it will not hear the appeals. We expect to know more by the end of November, with a possible decision by June of 2013.

Q: So what does this mean for binational couples?

Blesch v. Holder, Immigration Equality’s challenge to DOMA on behalf of five binational couples seeking green cards, is filed in the Eastern District of New York, which is part of the Second Circuit. Judge Carol Bagley Amon stayed our case until Windsor was decided, and now Windsor has been decided favorably. We have always believed that we would win our case, and we are even more sure now. We’ll fill you in with  more information in the weeks ahead. As hard as it is to wait, this victory is another move forward on behalf of LGBT immigrant families desperate for relief. Make no mistake, we will win!

Photo via Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

21 Responses to Edie Wins! Another Ruling Against DOMA, What It Means

  1. sam says:

    Great news! now can i file fiance petition for my filipino partner in philippines?? thank you

  2. Amy says:

    Not yet, but its another big step in the right direction :-). Thank you!!

  3. Miguel Yopolo says:

    We must continue to fight for the discriminatory law D.O.M.A. to be definitely deleted from this country and the binational couples can live in harmony in the USA, as the rest of the families…

  4. Brad Allison says:

    More good news today! DOMA has yet another nail in the coffin. Time for SCOTUS to drive the last nail in. I hope this is like a house of cards that is beginning to tumble down quickly. My fiance and I want to be together and live our lives like any other US couple. He happens to be in Uruguay and me in Michigan. I have spent thousands of dollars just to be able to go see him.

  5. Roman says:

    Good news!
    Thank you all for your work!

  6. Jason Tobias says:

    Have been trying for 8 years to bring my Partner to USA , we will NEVER give up because we believe in the power of love and know that one day soon, we will have equal rights, and I will be able to sponsor the man I love for a green card, just like my hetrosexual friends. No one and no goverment can destroy love. We must all united and support this cause. Oscar and I will be united one day I know this…

  7. Terrence says:

    My husband have been forced to leave the US because I can’t get him a green card and his visa expired. This decision brings hope that one day we can return to my homeland.

  8. Paul Walsh says:

    I’m so thrilled of this news, My partner is Italian and we’ve been waiting for this news to come.

  9. colts-tiger says:

    I too have spent thousands of dollars to see my partner in Philippines and I hope the UAFA passes along with immigration. Or else I leave my beloved USA to be together. Love u Colt!

  10. Dias Brito says:

    I just hope Mitt Romney don’t win this elections. That man is a big danger to this cause.

  11. Honza says:

    Amazing News! Thank You!

  12. Pinoy says:

    I am also Filipino and been here in the states for one year under visa but, it will expire next year :-( I hope DOMA will be repealed soon so that my bf and I will be together without any restrictions.

  13. Ralph says:

    Absolutely wonderful! Still work need to be done to provide relief for binational couples exiled because of DOMA. Passing UAFA is well past due.

  14. Jon says:

    For the first time I honestly think I see the goal finally in sight.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hello Everyone!
    Fantastic Effort Immigration Equality., you guys are incredible :)))

    I came to united states in the month of september’2008 on studentt visa and lived with my partner unitil October 2010.   I’m into same sex relationship and I married ( marriage for convenience ) to a girl ( My partners colleague ) who helped to remain with my partner ( this was only way I thought ) to remain with my partner and finally my petition for green card got denied when we got stroke interview ( which was obvious as marriage wasn’t legitimate ) neither I reveal the fact about my same sex relationship to immigration officer or neither to Immigration judge ( In the fear of getting deported ) when processing the paper for voluntary departure which I finally got and left united states before the time given by judge, which was kind of nightmare to me and my boyfriend.

    Im in India from past couple of years.Folks,is there any chance of possibility I can see myself in united states living with my boy friend again, please help!  I’m helpless here. Any advice,suggestion will be highly appreciated! please please do assist us.    Last but not the least .,Jason Tobias I really admire you spirit .,   Love and Regards to Everyone !!!!  


  16. Rachel Tiven says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Will you go to our “Contact Us” page and choose “Legal help” in the first box? Here’s the link: http://www.immigrationequality.org/contact-us/
    One of our attorneys will be in touch with you.

    Thank you for writing,

    Rachel Tiven, Executive Director

  17. John says:

    Fantastic News, Not so long ago we can remember the first steps taken to not be beaten for being LGBT. The fight for Immigration Equality is the next step. Recognition for same sex families is a right we deserve just as any heterosexual couple. DOMA has taken away my ability to be with the man I love in the United States. I guess falling in love in another country was my mistake. Beaten once again for being gay. When DOMA is finally ruled unconstitutional I can return home with my family. A day I can share with my parents for the first time when they can meet the man I have loved for so many years. Keep fighting and we are sure to win for future generations. Just as the fight to not be beaten for being gay was won not so long ago.

  18. Anonymous says:

    @ Rachel, Thank you and much appreciated !! I have forwarded the queries.

  19. McKeon Day says:


    How did you get a visa to go to the United States?

    Also a question for everyone, I am U.S. citizen living in Peru right now with the man that i love, he does not have any work experience in a certain field in order to file for a work visa, and a student visa is kind of out of play right now, because we dont have enough money to study, actually money is extremely limited right now do to monthly salary here being so low. What do you have for recommendations on getting my husband to temporarily live with me in Portland, OR. is there any possibility? i cannot go back home alone i love him too much.

  20. Joseph says:

    I’ve been with my bf for 11 years now, we got married in NYC on July 31st 2012. When DOMA is repealed on June 2013, how fast can he apply for a green card? Thank you for all your wonderful work..

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