Self-Contradictory S.D.N.Y. Ruling Against DOMA

Yesterday, in Windsor v. United States, Judge Barbara S. Jones of the Southern District of New York joined the herd of independent minds rushing to declare unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the definition of marriage for purposes of provisions of federal law. Without even bothering to hear argument on the matter, Judge Jones ruled that section 3 could not operate to bar a woman from claiming the marital deduction from the federal estate tax on her deceased same-sex spouse’s estate.

Judge Jones purported to apply the same supposed “intensified scrutiny” version of rational-basis review that the First Circuit espoused in its badly confused anti-DOMA ruling last week. But the utterly makeshift nature of Jones’s reasoning is evident from the fact that she contradicts herself from one page to another:

In dismissing Congress’s interests in proceeding cautiously and in promoting the traditional understanding of marriage, Jones finds it convenient to state (correctly) that “DOMA does not affect the state laws that govern marriage.” (Slip op. at 19.)

But just a few pages later, in disparaging Congress’s interest in ensuring a uniform standard of eligibility for federal benefits, Jones reverses course and declares (incorrectly—see point 3.b here) that section 3 “intrude[s] upon the states’ business of regulating domestic relations” and “skirts important principles of federalism.” (Slip op. at 23.)

(For anyone who wants to understand how section 3 of DOMA easily satisfies rational-basis review, I’d recommend reading the House of Representatives brief filed earlier this week in the Ninth Circuit by Paul Clement and his team.)

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More