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U.S. v. Windsor

Full name: United States v. Windsor

Click here to read the decision

Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
Sonia Sotomayor

Samuel Alito
John G. Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Clarence Thomas

Note: Court justices do not represent any political party. The color of each judge's name represents the political party of the president who appointed the judge.

Click here for a list of all Supreme Court justices

Related Issues


What is this case about?

The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may not differentiate between same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages for residents of states where same-sex marriage is recognized.

Circumstances of the case

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were a same-sex couple who married in Canada before moving to New York.

After Spyer died in 2009, Windsor attempted to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was denied because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act stipulated that the term spouse only applies in a marriage between one man and one woman.

Windsor sued, claiming that the law singled out legally married same-sex couples for "differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification."

How the Supreme Court ruled

The court ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to not recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by states.

Not recognizing them would violate the rights of due process and equal protection granted by the Constitution.

What happened as a result of this decision?

This case led to several advances for married same-sex couples with regard to how they are treated by federal agencies.

It also led to confusion - especially with how to deal with same-sex couples in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. Click here to read about some of those issues.

In June, 2015, this case was superseded by the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which required states to treat same-sex marriages the same as opposite-sex ones.

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