The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is deeply connected to New York State.
The plaintiff in the case is 83 year old Edith Windsor, a New York woman who sued the federal government because she was denied the estate exemption when her partner of 40 years died in 2009. Windsor had to pay $363,053 in taxes because the Defense of Marriage Act only provided federal benefits to heterosexual couples.
After today's ruling, Windsor told a cheering crowd that she cried when she heard the news and added, "On a deeply personal level, I felt stress and anguish that in the eyes of my government, the woman I had loved and cared for and shared my life with was not my legal spouse but was considered to be a stranger with no relationship to me."
Though Edith Windsor hired a private legal team to make her case before the Supreme Court, the fact that she comes from New York State, which already recognizes same sex marriage means that her biggest defender here was New York's top law enforcer. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was in Syracuse at an unrelated media event when the decision was issued. "My office was in it from the beginning." Schneiderman told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
As Attorney General, Schneiderman filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of New York and 14 other states. He argued that the Defense Of Marriage Act violated same-sex couples right to equal protection under the law. He also said it was an intrusion on the authority of individual states to regulate marriage. Schneiderman says the Supreme Court agreed with his view. "There were over 11-hundred different parts of federal law and regulations that defined your benefits and rights according to marriage and we now have equal justice under the law for New York marriages."
Schneiderman says among the winners in today's ruling are the thousands of children of same sex parents who can no longer be treated as second class citizens.