Echoing several other recent court opinions, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones today ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act's federal definition of marriage is unconstitutional insofar as it forced Edie Windsor to pay estate taxes after the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, that would not have been owed had she been married to a man.
In deciding that the statute is unconstitutional under the lowest level of judicial scrutiny -- rational basis -- Jones, a Clinton appointee, wrote:
Regardless whether a more "searching" form of rational basis scrutiny is required where a classification burdens homosexuals as a class and the states' prerogatives are concerned, at a minimum this court "must insist on knowing the relation between the classification adopted and the object to be attained. The search for the link between classification and objective gives substance to the equal protection analysis. Additionally, as has always been required under the rational basis test, irrespective of the context, the court must consider whether the government's asserted interests are legitimate. Pursuant to those established principles, and mindful of the Supreme Court's jurisprudential cues, the court finds that DOMA's section 3 does not pass constitutional muster.
The ruling in Windsor's case, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, comes less than a week after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously found DOMA unconstitutional under a type of rational basis analysis, affirming a decision earlier reached on more expansive reasoning by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro.