Skip to content


(Washington, DC)U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen joined 211 members of Congress today in filing an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Edith Schlain Windsor, a landmark challenge to Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act also known as DOMA. The brief outlines a legal rationale for repealing DOMA on grounds that it is unconstitutional. 

“LGBT Americans and families deserve equal treatment under the law but as long as DOMA remains in place, same-sex couples will be wrongfully denied important benefits. In this day and age, we cannot tolerate this type of discrimination,” said Senator Shaheen.  “DOMA is unconstitutional and I am committed to doing all I can to see it abolished.” 

Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” excluding legally married same-sex couples from all marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights.  The amicus brief filed argues that Section 3 should be struck down because there is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to all other married couples. As the brief explains, “DOMA imposes a sweeping and unjustifiable federal disability on married same-sex couples.”

In Edith “Edie” Windsor’s case, the federal government taxed Edie more than $363,000 when her spouse, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009 two years after the couple was married. After Thea’s passing, the federal government treated them as complete strangers because of DOMA, significantly reducing Edie’s inheritance by denying her protections from the estate tax that other married couples receive.

Edie challenged DOMA as a violation of equal protection. The federal district court in New York City and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. The full brief, available here, urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Second Circuit’s decision.  

Including New Hampshire, gay and lesbian couples can now marry in a total nine states and the District of Columbia.