SCOTUS Decision on DOMA
By Albert N. Milliron, Opinion-Editorial
Today’s Supreme Court decision UNITED STATES v. WINDSOR which deals with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is controversial. We publicly stated that we thought that portions of DOMA would be overturned based on portions of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation (US Constitution)
We believe the case rested on the Due Process clause and elsewhere on The Equal Protection clause.
The facts of the case are these. Two women where legally married in Ontario, Canada in 2009. They moved to a state where same-sex marriage is legal. One of the women died and willed her estate to her partner. The partner in this case sought an estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. Her claim was denied by the Internal Revenue Service and was required to pay $363,053.00 in taxes.
The rational the federal government used for denying her claim was based in the text of DOMA. DOMA amended the Dictionary Act which defines terms in over 1000 laws and countless regulations. In this case DOMA defined the term “Marriage” as the union between one man and one woman.
The partner (through the executor) appealed to the courts that she was not afforded equal protection found with in the text of the Fifth amendment and sought a remedy. During the time of the Suit, the Attorney General of the United States stated publicly that certain portions of DOMA where unconstitutional and would not be enforced. The District court found that provisions were indeed unconstitutional. Even though both the District court and the Circuit court ordered the money refunded (with interest), the United States had not complied.
An appeal was made to the Supreme Court for Remedy.
The Supreme Court simply stated that a same-sex couple should be afforded the same benefits and protections afforded to all married couples under the Constitution. by doing so, they upheld the lower courts decision. This includes not paying estate tax, receiving federal benefits, etc.
The writer is a right-leaning libertarian. At times I am at odds with my fellow conservatives. This is one of those times.
While I am an advocate of the religious institution of marriage, I believe the federal government got themselves in a bit of a pickle by promoting a religious sacrament and granting benefits to those who practice the sacrament. With all of the advocates on the left of “separation of church and state” and mostly a freedom ‘from’ rather than freedom ‘of’ religion posture, how could the state ever have allowed itself to be in the marriage business at all? But since they did, the government put themselves in this position and allowed unequal protection under the laws. This certainly could not stand for very long.
In my view, marriage is a religious institution, based on biblical principles that brings together one man and one women to be “fruitful and multiply”. Government should have never been involved in this religious activity.
I see two solutions to this problem. One requires that the state stop promoting marriage and revoke all benefits that are afforded to those who are married and make each individual equal. Ministers and justices should stop saying, “by the power vested in me by God and the State of [Blank] I pronounce you married” and return the institution back to the religious. But we know that is not going to happen. In America, once benefits are given, they are rarely (if ever ) taken away.
The other solution is to allow the law to be equal in the regard to partnerships. Couples of all stripes are afforded the same protection in Government. These means inheritance taxes, healthcare benefits, visiting rights to hospitals, Insurance etc..
In this SCOTUS case, I believe they provided the correct remedy. There is no reason for a couple to pay estate tax who have been legally married as recognized by the state in which they reside.
Now that same sex couples are considered equal under the law, I am happy to afford them the same benefits of Marriage and DIVORCE!
Having said that, I think this is a perfect example why the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished and replaced by a fair tax that taxes everyone equally with some provision for a reverse tax for below the poverty line. But that subject is for another article on another day.
Disagree? Read the Courts Decision and comment below