A ruling is expected by the end of June on the constitutionality of DOMA saying that marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman. The legislation passed Congress with overwhelming support and President Clinton signed it into law in 1996.
Under the law, Social Security, bankruptcy and pension benefits, along with family medical leave protections and other federal marriage benefits, do not apply to gay and lesbian couples legally married in states that recognize same-sex unions.
Edith Windsor, the 83-year-old plaintiff who is challenging DOMA, said she felt respected in the court and that she expects the outcome of Wednesday’s court hearing to be positive.
Windsor married her partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. Spyer died two years later and left her estate to Windsor, who faced an immense estate tax because DOMA does not allow gay spouses to transfer wealth tax-free.
Not everyone shared Windsor’s optimism after the conclusion of the oral arguments.
After the hearing, Rev. Robert L. Schenck, chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance, a group that filed a brief in the case and represents thousand of civilian and military members of the clergy, told reporters that the religious liberties of the clergy and the definition of marriage are both at risk.
“While we stand for the defense of marriage as between one man and one woman, it is quite clear that that definition at the federal level is at great risk,” he said.