Respecting marriage means repealing DOMA now

Edie Windsor’s story is a painful testament to this unjust reality. Edie spent 44 years with the love of her life, Thea Spyer, building a life together in New York City. They became engaged in 1967, and were legally married in Canada in 2007 in a union recognized by their home state of New York.

Two years later, Spyer died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. In the midst of this immense personal loss, Edie was told she had to pay more than $350,000 in federal taxes on Spyer's estate — fees she would not have to pay if she had been married to a man. When Edie sought a refund, the IRS rejected her claim, citing DOMA.

It’s shocking and unfair — and Edie is not having any of it. In November 2010, she filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging DOMA's constitutionality on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

At the press conference, Edie shared her experience, which is just one of thousands and thousands of other stories of the harm inflicted on couples and their children who are being denied fundamental rights by their own federal government.

Because of DOMA, legally married same-sex couples are denied federal protections available to every other married couple in this country. For example, they cannot file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions; receive spousal benefits under Social Security; take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when a loved one falls seriously ill; or obtain the protections of the estate tax when one spouse passes and wants to leave his or her possessions to another.  

The Obama administration’s recent announcement that it will no longer defend DOMA in court and the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act mark important steps toward recognizing our common humanity and ending this egregious injustice.

But the fight isn’t over. House Republican leaders have vowed to protect the discriminatory DOMA. Despite this, the tide nationwide is clearly turning in favor of marriage equality. All across the country, in every community, same-sex couples and their families are sharing their stories and their lives with others in a conversation that is transforming our country. Their stories and their courage inspire and compel us to press forward until full equality is achieved.

I told Edie that hers would be the last generation to live under the hurtful, shameful DOMA. Let’s all make good on that pledge by urging Congress to repeal DOMA now.

Rea Carey is the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.