The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in three cases today:

United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307:  Edith Windsor’s same-sex marriage in Canada to Thea Spyer was recognized by the State of New York. Spyer’s estate was left to Windsor upon Spyer’s death, but Windsor was barred from claiming the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses by §3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners.  After the Internal Revenue Service denied the tax refund Windsor sought, she brought a refund suit challenging DOMA as violating the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment.  After the Bipartisan Legal Advisor Group of the House of Representatives intervened in the litigation following the Department of Justice’s determination it would no longer defend §3’s constitutionality, the District Court found §3 unconstitutional.  The Second Circuit affirmed.  Today, the Court affirmed, holding first that the Court has jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case, and second, that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, because no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. 

The Court's decision is available here.

Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144:  California passed Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that amended the State Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Same-sex couples who wish to marry brought suit against California’s Governor and other state and local officials, challenging Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The initiative’s official proponents, the petitioners here, were permitted to intervene to defend the law when the defendant officials refused to do so.  The District Court found Proposition 8 unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement.  Only petitioners appealed; the defendant officials did not.  The Ninth Circuit, after first certifying a standing question to the California Supreme Court, held that petitioners had federal standing to defend Proposition 8’s constitutionality, and affirmed the District Court on the merits.  The Court today vacated and remanded, holding that petitioners do not have federal standing because they have not suffered a concrete and particularized injury, and observing that the Court has never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. By ruling the Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to hear the appeal, thus leaving the District Court’s decision in place, the effect of the Court’s decision will be to allow same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The Court's decision is available here.

Sekhar v. United States, No. 12-357:  Petitioner Sekhar, a managing partner of FA Technology Ventures, was convicted of attempted extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. §1951(a).  Petitioner had sent emails to the general counsel for the New York State Comptroller, which was responsible for choosing investment’s for New York’s employee pension fund, threatening to disclose information about the general counsel’s alleged affair if he did not change course and recommend investing in a fund managed by FA Technology Ventures.  Such a conviction under the Hobbs Act requires, among other things, “the obtaining of property from another,” and the jury found that the general counsel’s recommendation to approve the investment was the property petitioner attempted to extort.  The Second Circuit, in turn, affirmed.  Today, the Court reversed, holding that petitioner’s attempt to compel a person to recommend that his employer approve an investment does not constitute “the obtaining of property from another” under the Hobbs Act.

The Court's decision is available here.