He based the ruling on the Supreme Court’s 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, which involved an amendment to the Colorado constitution that prohibited the state or local jurisdictions from outlawing discrimination against gays. The amendment was a response to local governments that had extended such protection.
Reinhardt’s decision, if allowed to stand, would apply only to same-sex marriages in California.
The court was in a tricky legal area in deciding what to do about DOMA. The Obama administration normally would defend a law passed by Congress but would prefer that this one be found unconstitutional. The Republican leadership in the House has hired Paul D. Clement, the former solicitor general who argued the challenges to the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, to defend DOMA.
From several possibilities, the court chose the case of Edith “Edie” Windsor, 83, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Windsor had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after her partner of 44 years died in 2009. Windsor and Thea Spyer were married in 2007 in Canada and lived in New York. If Windsor had been married to a man, she would not have owed the tax payment.