The Republican House leadership's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, discussed earlier today here, just got a lot more concrete. They will be facing off against Edith Windsor on May 9.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis, who is hearing the challenge to Section 3 of DOMA brought by Windsor in the Southern District of New York, filed an order today setting May 9 as the first showdown between the Department of Justice, the House DOMA defense lawyers and Windsor's lawyers -- Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and the ACLU.
Specifically, Francis set a status conference for 9:30 a.m. that day "for a conference with the Court to discuss how this case should proceed in light of the President's decision, as announced by the Attorney General on February 23, 2011, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), 1 U.S.C. § 7 as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment."
Before that, Francis set April 18 as the deadline for Congress to seek to intervene in the case.
Windsor, the widow of Thea Spyer, was forced to pay a $350,000 estate bill following Spyer's death because of the federal government's refusal to recognize Windsor's marriage to Spyer. The New York City couple, whose 2007 wedding in Toronto was featured in The New York Times, were the subject of a documentary, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement. New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions for limited purposes.
As Kaplan told Metro Weekly when the case was brought, "I have an 81-year-old client, and $350,000 is a hell of a lot of money -- a huge amount of money that she paid in violation of the Constitution. My client had to pay the government, and she wants her money back."
And now, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will be sending lawyers to Francis's courtroom to argue against the DOJ and Kaplan about why DOMA's limitation leading to that $350,000 bill is not unconstitutional.
Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog broke the news earlier this evening here.
Read Francis's order: windsor_order.pdf
[Photo of Windsor and Spyer from Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement.]