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Bessent: Defense of Marriage Act teeters again, with good reason

John Burczyk, right, and Antonino Puglia, center, partners

John Burczyk, right, and Antonino Puglia, center, partners of 35 years, fill out forms for marriage at the North Hempstead Town Clerk's office on the day that New York became the sixth and largest state to recognize same-sex weddings. (July 24, 2011) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

The misbegotten federal Defense of Marriage Act took another hit today when a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that its discrimination against same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word, maybe as soon as next year. But in rejecting a section of the law that says “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman,” the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals highlighted the harm the law visits on ordinary people who happen to love and marry someone of the same sex.

It cost Edith Windsor $363,053 in federal estate taxes after Thea Spyer — her partner for decades whom she married in Canada in 2007 — died in 2009 in New York. She wouldn’t have owed the tax had the federal government recognized her marriage, as it does those of opposite-sex couples.


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The appeals court rejected a number of rationales for the law, including preserving a traditional understanding of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation and maintaining a uniform definition of marriage. It ruled the law’s “classification of same-sex couples was not substantially related to an important government interest” and, as a result, violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

A federal appeals court in Boston reached the same conclusion in July. It ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denied federal benefits to same-sex couples married in the District of Columbia or one of the six states, including New York, where such unions are legal.

People who resist the expansion of freedom in this country ultimately lose, as they should.

Pictured above: John Burczyk, right, and Antonino Puglia, center, partners of 35 years, fill out forms for marriage at the North Hempstead Town Clerk's office on the day that New York became the sixth and largest state to recognize same-sex weddings. (July 24, 2011)

Tags: Defense of Marriage Act , same-sex marriage , opposite-sex marriage , federal appeals court , Constitution , rights , Edith Windsor , Thea Spyer , estate taxes

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