University of Pittsburgh
December 6, 2012

Pitt Faculty Expert Available to Comment on Defense of Marriage Act Cases Before U.S. Supreme Court

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Following their private conference last Friday, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court were expected to announce whether the Court would review this term cases involving same-sex marriage. Thus far, the Court has remained silent while 10 petitions for Supreme Court review challenge three separate laws that together (1) deny federal benefits to same-sex spouses, (2) limit marriage to a man and a woman, and (3) withhold state employee benefits from domestic partners. 


University of Pittsburgh Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Anthony C. Infantiis available to comment on one of the laws that is being challenged in two of the pending petitions (Windsor v. United States and Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives v. Gill). That law is Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which provides, "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." 

"Some of the important issues that the Supreme Court may consider in Windsor and Gill include whether sexual-orientation-based classifications are subject to heightened court scrutiny and whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," said Infanti. "In addition, since Section 3 applies only to federal law and neither Windsor nor Gill involves challenges to Section 2—which applies to the states—there also are important ancillary questions that the federal government will face if the Court strikes down Section 3 as unconstitutional. These questions revolve around the circumstances under which same-sex marriages will be legally recognized for purposes of federal law."

Infanti offered some examples. If a Pennsylvania same-sex couple was married in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriages, would the federal government now recognize that marriage for purposes of federal law or would it follow Pennsylvania law and continue to deny legal recognition to the marriage? What about states that don't legally recognize same-sex marriages but do recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that are intended to be the equivalent of marriage? Would those legal relationships now be treated as marriages for purposes of federal law? 

Infanti's scholarly work has largely addressed the impact of the tax system on traditionally subordinated groups. Another name for this area is critical tax theory. Infanti's work in the area of critical tax theory focuses particularly on the application of the tax laws to lesbians and gay men. 

Infanti's articles have been published in such scholarly publications as the Utah Law Review, theFlorida Tax Review, the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, and Unbound: The Harvard Journal of the Legal Left.

The author of Everyday Law for Gays and Lesbians (and Those Who Care About Them) (Paradigm Publishers, 2007) and the coeditor of Critical Tax Theory: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Infanti is well situated to comment on the Defense of Marriage Act and related issues.

Infanti's teaching areas at Pitt's School of Law include federal income taxation, partnership tax, estate and gift tax, and international tax, among others. Infanti earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Drew University, a Juris Doctor degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Laws degree in taxation at New York University School of Law.