December 11, 2012

This is the story of Edie and Anthony, two people destined to be together. Edie Windsor, an IBMer with a master’s in math, married Dr. Thea Spyer, a clinical psychologist, in 2007 in Toronto after a 40-year engagement. In ’09 Spyer died from MS and left a considerable estate to her longtime love. But Edie got a federal estate tax bill for $363,000 because the Defense of Marriage Act requires the federal government to treat Edie and Thea as strangers. If Thea had been, say, Theodore, the tax bill would’ve been $0. Edie sued, asking why the federal government treats gay married couples differently. Several lower courts found DOMA unconstitutional. So it was inevitable that before long, Edie (and the freight train that is the gay rights movement) would encounter Anthony (Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, perhaps the most powerful Supreme of all time because he’s the swing vote and is almost always with the majority). When the Supremes get down to assessing DOMA we can expect the conservatives–Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito–to defend DOMA, while the liberals–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan vote to strike it down. So the outcome will be determined by the votes of Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s shown he’s willing to leave the conservatives if he feels the court’s legacy is in peril, and Kennedy, who authored the court’s two majority opinions supporting gay rights.