Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Found to be Unconstitutional

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

On June 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court held the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied recognition of same-sex marriages in all federal statutes, "unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution." United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 4921, * 47 (June 26, 2013).

DOMA potentially affected the application of 1,138 federal statutory provisions in the United States Code in which marital status is a factor ( The holding marked a substantial change in attitude in the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriages. Prior to Windsor, there was binding Supreme Court precedent which held that a state ban on same-sex marriage did not violate the United States Constitution. See Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) (determining that a Minnesota law prohibiting same-sex marriage did not violate the federal Constitution). The applicable Minnesota statute had, like DOMA, defined marriage as a union of persons of the opposite sex, and the state supreme court had upheld the statute. See Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310 (1971). On appeal, the Supreme Court dismissed summarily "for want of a substantial federal question." Baker, 409 U.S. 810. Unlike a denial of certiorari, such a dismissal represented a decision on the merits that the Constitutional challenge presented was insubstantial and was binding on lower courts. See Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 344 (1975). A decade before Windsor, interpreted by some as a precursor, the Supreme Court declared a state law ban on sodomy unconstitutional as violating the Fifth Amendment. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

If you have any questions regarding family law issues please call Calvo & Calvo Attorneys at Law today to speak with one of our Fort Myers family law attorneys.