Civil and Human Rights

United States v. Windsor

At issue in United States v. Windsor was the constitutionality of Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defined marriage for purposes of federal law solely as between a man and a woman and thus excluded legally married same-sex couples from more than a thousand federal legal protections, rights and benefits provided to married, opposite-sex couples.

Case Summary

On February 1, 2013, Constitutional Accountability Center and the Cato Institute jointly filed an amici curiae brief in support of the Respondent in Windsor, arguing that DOMA’s Section 3 violated the basic constitutional requirement of equality under the law, denying to legally married same-sex couples the full range of federal rights and benefits that exist to help support committed, loving couples form enduring, life-long bonds. CAC and Cato’s brief demonstrated that laws that discriminate and treat any group of persons as inferior are “by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” Our brief also directly addressed flaws in the defense of Section 3 offered by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives (“BLAG”); the purported governmental interests BLAG suggested, such as appeals to “tradition,” failed under any standard of review, even rational basis scrutiny.

On June 26, 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court, as we had urged, held that Section 3 of DOMA violated the basic constitutional requirement of equality under the law, and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married same-sex couples for the purpose of determining federal benefits. In the majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court criticized DOMA’s vast system of marriage discrimination as an assault on the Constitution’s universal guarantee of equality, explaining that DOMA’s “principal purpose” was to “impose inequality,” and that it demeaned the couple “whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify.” Although Windsor did not decide whether states may forbid same-sex marriage, the sweeping ruling is an important victory that establishes a strong constitutional foundation for marriage equality.

Read CAC’s reaction to the landmark decision in Windsor here, here, here and here.

Case Timeline

More from Civil and Human Rights

Civil and Human Rights
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Doe v. Mukwonago Area School District

In Doe v. Mukwonago Area School District, the Seventh Circuit is considering whether policies prohibiting transgender students from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity violate Title IX.
Civil and Human Rights
August 26, 2023

They invest in Black women. A lawsuit claims it’s discrimination.

Washington Post
Conservative activist Edward Blum’s nonprofit organization is suing Fearless Fund, alleging that the firm’s grant...
By: David H. Gans, Taylor Telford
Civil and Human Rights
August 28, 2023

A Fund for Black Women Entrepreneurs is Being Sued for Discrimination

The Story Exchange
A conservative activist claims the Fearless Fund, which invests in Black women business owners, engages...
By: David H. Gans, By Candice Helfand-Rogers
Civil and Human Rights
August 22, 2023

Title VII on the Move: Unravelling the Legal Tango of Lateral Transfers

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani
On June 30, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Sergeant Jatonya Muldrow’s Petition for Writ...
Civil and Human Rights
August 6, 2023

TV (FNS): Situation in Niger and Implications for Democracy

Fox News Sunday
Civil and Human Rights
June 30, 2023

TV (GNC): CAC’s Fernandes on Supreme Court Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis

SCOTUS backs web designer opposed to helping same-sex couples
On June 30, 2023, Constitutional Accountability Center Vice President Praveen Fernandes appeared on Global News...
By: Praveen Fernandes