In New York, Thursday a federal appeals court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. DOMA defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, and the federal appeals court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny "federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples."
This is the second federal appeals court to reject DOMA as unconstitutional. "The decision upheld a lower court ruling that had found a central part of the law unconstitutional," reported NBC News.
Reuters reported that two of a three judge panel voted in favor of 83-year-old Edith Windsor who said that DOMA's discrimination towards gay couples violates the U.S. Constitution. She sued the government in 2010.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of Windsor who married her wife, Thea Clara Spyer in 2007 in Toronto, Canada. The duo were engaged in 1967, Reuters reported. When Spyer passed away in 2009 after a battle with multiple sclerosis she left her property Windsor. Since under DOMA the marriage wasn't recognized federally she had to pay a sum of more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes, Reuters reported.
"Windsor's attorneys argued that the act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law," said Reuters.
Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs said according to NBC News, "Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public. Even if preserving tradition were in itself an important goal, DOMA is not a means to achieve it."
Judge Chester Straub said according to NBC News, "If this understanding is to be changed, I believe it is for the American people to do so."
Six states have legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. but because of DOMA which passed in 1996, the federal government does not recognize those marriages, Reuters reported.
Reuters reported that the Obama administration announced last year that they believed the law to be unconstitutional but now "a group appointed by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is defending the law in courts across the country."
Watch Edith and Thea's story below: