March 27, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Windsor: Oral arguments ‘went beautifully’
Edith Windsor, Edie Windsor, gay news, marriage equality, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Washington Blade

Edith Windsor on the steps of the Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The New York widow who challenged the Defense of Marriage Act said after she left the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday she feels the oral arguments in her case went “really well.”

“I think it went great,” Edith Windsor told reporters during a news conference after she and her attorneys left the court. “I think it went beautifully. I thought the justices were gentle… they were direct. They asked all the right questions. I didn’t feel any hostility or any sense of inferiority.”

Windsor, who married her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007, paid $363,000 in estate taxes after her 2009 death.

“In the midst of my grief I realized that the federal government was treating us as strangers,” Windsor said. “I paid a humongous estate tax. And it means selling a lot of stuff to do it, and it wasn’t easy.”

She also noted during the news conference that she did not wear a wedding ring when she and Spyer became engaged because she had not come out of the closet.

“I am today an out lesbian who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me,” Windsor said.

She added she remains optimistic the justices will rule in her favor.

“I think it’s going to be good,” Windsor said.

Windsor’s lawyers also spoke outside the court.

“Today’s oral arguments tells the story and tells the lesson of why it is we have a constitution to bind us together as citizens of one nation, all of whom are guaranteed the equal protection of the law,” New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan said. “There is no one individual who better personifies the concept of equal protection than my client Edie Windsor.”

James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, pointed out DOMA treats the 130,000 married same-sex couples in the United States as unmarried within more than 1,100 different federal contexts.

“What’s caused what happened to Edie to happen that she was treated unmarried despite of her 44 years together with the woman who became her spouse,” he said. “So Edie and Thea spent four decades together in good times and bad, in sickness and in health just like any other married couple. And for the federal government to pretend that their marriage didn’t exist is unfair, it’s un-American and it’s unconstitutional.”

DOMA proponent: Law is ‘very shaky’ after oral arguments

Rev. Rob Schenck, chair of the Evangelical Church Alliance, which filed a brief on behalf of more than 200 military chaplains, told reporters outside the Supreme Court that he feels DOMA is “very shaky” after today’s proceedings.

“Of course we always to remain optimistic on our side of the argument, but I would say the questions particularly put to the justices by Justice Kennedy put that in doubt,” he said. “It will take an act of Congress to guarantee the religious freedoms of military chaplains. It may take an action by this court, but certainly whatever the decision they make is going to incite future litigation and we can guarantee them that because we’ll be back here.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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