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Second Circuit Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act

As has been widely reported by The New York Times, the New York Law Journal, The Wall Street Journal and other outlets, Paul, Weiss client Edith Windsor won a landmark ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in her challenge of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Second Circuit affirmed the decision of Southern District Court Judge Barbara Jones, holding that the law is unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, with Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs writing the majority opinion. Ms. Windsor shared 44 years with her late spouse, Thea Spyer, but was forced to pay more than $360,000 in federal estate taxes because the federal government refused to recognize their marriage after Ms. Spyer's death in 2009 solely as a result of DOMA. Had Ms. Windsor been married to a man, she would not have had to pay any federal estate tax at all.

The Second Circuit's opinion finding that DOMA is unconstitutional marks the first time a federal appeals court has held that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened judicial scrutiny. The Solicitor General and Ms. Windsor have asked the Supreme Court to grant petitions for certiorari in her case.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partners Roberta Kaplan, Andrew Ehrlich, Walter Rieman and Craig Benson; personal representation partner Alan Halperin; and tax partner Richard Bronstein

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