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Mom and Dad love each other through thick or thin, from the day they met in church to the day he died at a hospice as she held his hand.
And Mom would fall in love a second time and marry, and once again would outlive a husband.
In both cases, Mom as the widow did not have to pay estate taxes on anything she inherited. That’s the law.
But in the United States, where all men are created equal, according to the Declaration of Independence, there is also a law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that creates two separate and unequal classes of people. Opposite-sex couples, like my parents, are granted tax privileges that are not afforded to same-sex couples, thereby creating an unfair and discriminatory situation that the Obama administration has identified.
After the Obama administration and the Justice Department declared that they would no longer defend DOMA in lawsuits, the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have decided to spend up to $500,000 of taxpayer money to hire the high-powered law firm of King & Spalding to defend the indefensible, a discriminatory law that punishes gay and lesbian couples who are legally wed.
Heading the GOP legal team is Paul Clement, who was Soliciter General for President George W. Bush.
Currently, a dozen lawsuits are pending against DOMA, so Clement will likely be a busy attorney trying to defend discrimination.
Clement’s first target is Edith “Edie” Windsor, 81, of New York, who sued the federal government for recognition of her legal marriage to Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. The couple were together for more than 40 years until Spyer died in 2009.
After her wife died, Windsor was treated as a non-spouse by the IRS and she was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes. That’s right, $363,000 in estate taxes. Something Mom never had to pay after outliving Dad and her second husband.
“If you live together for 42 years and you love each other all those years and take care of each other all those years, how could marriage be different? It turns out it's different and you don't know why," Windsor said in a video (see below) produced by the ACLU, which has taken up the widow’s cause in court. "It has to do with our dignity altogether, our dignity as human beings."
The Canadian marriage of Windsor and Spyer was recognized by their home state of New York, but that didn’t help Windsor after her wife died.
"The federal government taxed what I inherited from Thea as though we were strangers rather than spouses," Windsor said in November. "The law effectively imposes a tax on being gay."
Poll after poll in 2011 show that a slim majority of Americans are now in favor of marriage equality, an ongoing trend that suggests that public opinion has shifted dramatically.
The GOP defense of DOMA is a losing cause, maybe not immediately but definitely in the future. It puts Republicans on the side of discrimination and unfair taxation.
Edie Windsor deserves the same treatment as Mom when it comes to estate taxes. Any other option is cruel and immoral.