SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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For Immediate Release

October 18, 2012

DOMA Found Unconstitutional by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

[New York, NY] SAGE applauds the October 18 decision by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan that ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples. The case (Windsor v. the United States) was brought by Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor, a longtime supporter of SAGE, former board member and a SAGE Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree. Edie shared her life with Thea Speyer, her partner for 44 years, until Thea’s death in 2009. Because their 2007 marriage was not recognized by the federal government, Edie was forced to pay over $360,000 in estate taxes that she would not have had to pay had she been married to a man.

“We are proud to support Edie Windsor, a longtime volunteer leader at SAGE, in her fight for equality,” said Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE. “Edie has fought tirelessly for the court to recognize her marriage and to protect the rights of all LGBT couples. Subjecting married same-sex couples to the federal inheritance tax has been hugely discriminatory and has contributed to the impoverishment of LGBT elders. This ruling is a victory for Edie and a huge step towards the day when LGBT elders will enjoy the same rights and quality of life as their heterosexual peers.”

In the ruling on Thursday, Judge Dennis Jacobs, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, found no reason that DOMA, a 1996 statute defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, could be used to deny benefits to married same-sex couples. And significantly, Chief Judge Jacobs’s opinion concluded that any law that discriminates against gay men and lesbians should be treated very skeptically under the Constitution and subjected to a specific level of judicial review called “heightened scrutiny.” This is the first federal appeals court to decide that a higher standard of review applies to sexual orientation discrimination.

“[This] decision is a victory for families and a victory for human rights,” said New York Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney Melissa Goodman. “Now, all loving couples in our state can truly enjoy the dignity, respect and legal rights that marriage provides.”

“Thea and I shared our lives together for 44 years, and I miss her each and every day,” said Windsor. “It’s thrilling to have a court finally recognize how unfair it is for the government to have treated us as though we were strangers.”

For more information on this case, please visit

SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country. Learn more at

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