DOMA's bad day in court

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March 27, 2013, 4:34 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - Same-sex marriage was before the U.S. Supreme Court again Wednesday.

The case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act was brought by 83-year-old New Yorker Edie Windsor.

When her partner of 44 years died, Windsor had to pay $363,000 federal inheritance taxes, instead of zero.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed in 1996 denies federal marriage benefits like tax breaks to same sex couples.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was critical of the law.

"Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality," she noted.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg complained DOMA created two kinds of marriages.

"The full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage," Ginsberg said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said DOMA intrudes on states who choose to recognize gay marriage.

Defending DOMA, lawyer Paul Clement argued it helps the U.S. military keep married straight couples from refusing transfer to states that allow gay marriage.

President Obama is not having Attorney General Eric Holder enforce DOMA.

He sent no lawyer to court to defend it, baffling Justice Antonin Scalia.

"I'm wondering if we're living in this new world where the Attorney General can simply decide, yeah, it's unconstitutional," Scalia pondered.

After the arguments Edie Windsor was optimistic.

"I think we were respected and it's going to be good," she told supporters.

And, as a lesbian, she feels liberated.

"I'm talking to you freely," she said. "I'd have been hiding in a closet ten years ago."

A ruling in the DOMA case is expected in June.

Court watchers are predicting DOMA will be declared unconstitutional, and Edie Windsor could get her $363,000 back.

Tags: Supreme Court, gay marriage, Defense of Marriage Act
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