Friday, June 26, 2015


In a landmark opinion, the Supreme Court rules today that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Today’s ruling overturned a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which said states had legitimate reasons for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,” Kennedy wrote. “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.” (more…)

Monday, June 23, 2014

US Supreme CourtOn June 12, the United States Supreme Court in Clark v Rameker resolved the question that has recently split the 5th and 7th Circuits— Are inherited IRAs protected from the beneficiary’s creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding? The Court unanimously held that they are not.

An inherited IRA is a traditional or Roth IRA that has been inherited by a beneficiary after the death of the owner. This term does not include an IRA that has been “rolled over” by a spouse beneficiary into her own IRA.

In order to make their decision, the Court had to determine whether an inherited IRA constitutes “retirement funds”, which are exempt assets in a bankruptcy estate.

The Court focused on three legal characteristics of inherited IRAs that led to their conclusion that the assets in an inherited IRA are not objectively set aside for the purpose of retirement: (more…)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The IRS today announced that, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, all legal same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the couple’s state of residence recognizes the marriage.

For the full announcement, click here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

womanwomanOn June 26, the US Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Windsor, holding (1) that the Court had jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case, and (2) that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. For a description of the previous history of the case, see our prior posts here and here. In a 5-4 opinion, Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan concurred, while Justices Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas dissented.


Edith Windsor (“Windsor”) and Thea Spyer (“Spyer”), New York residents, were legally married in Ontario, Canada, in 2007, after being in a relationship since 1963. Prior to their marriage, the two had registered as domestic partners when New York City gave that right to its citizens in 1993. While New York did not legalize same-sex marriage in New York until 2011, in 2008, the State of New York began recognizing marriages of same-sex couples validly performed elsewhere as valid marriages for purposes of New York law; Therefore, starting in 2008, New York recognized Windsor’s and Spyer’s Ontario marriage as a valid marriage. Spyer died in 2009, leaving her entire estate to her wife, Windsor.

As we’ve discussed in a prior post anticipating this decision (see here), the federal government allows an unlimited marital deduction for the federal estate tax for certain gifts on death to the decedent’s spouse. In this case, however, DOMA prevented Windsor from being able to claim the marital deduction on Spyer’s federal estate tax return because theirs was not a marriage between one man and one woman. (more…)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

US Supreme CourtThis morning, in a landmark ruling for gay rights, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on Fifth Amendment Equal Protection grounds, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor (570 U.S. ______ (2013)). DOMA is the 1996 federal statute preventing federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Under DOMA, marriage is defined for federal purposes as a union between one man and one woman. Such definition determined who was covered by more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave, as well as federal tax benefits, including, as was the issue in Windsor, the unlimited federal estate tax marital deduction. Under the law, gay couples who are legally married in a state (or foreign country) that allows same-sex marriage, were not considered married in the eyes of the federal government and were ineligible for the federal benefits that come with marriage.

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

For our prior blog posts regarding the history of this case, see When a Woman Loves a Woman: Another Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA.

We will provide you with a more in-depth look at the Supreme Court’s holding after we have a chance to review and analyze the entire opinion.