University of Pittsburgh
March 25, 2013

Pitt Law Expert Anthony C. Infanti Available to Comment on Defense of Marriage Act Case Before U.S. Supreme Court

The author of Everyday Law for Gays and Lesbians (and Those Who Care About Them), Infanti is an authority on constitutional and tax issues relating to same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Eighty-three-year-old widow Edith “Edie” Windsor shared her life with her late spouse and long-term partner, Thea Spyer, for 44 years. Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada and were considered married by their home state of New York. Following Spyer’s death, Windsor was required to pay $363,000 in estate tax that she would not have owed had the federal government recognized the couple’s marriage. Windsor filed a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to recognize the couple’s marriage.

Windsor’s lawsuit, which is scheduled for oral argument before the justices of the United States Supreme Court this week, challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—a federal statute that defines marriage for all federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

University of Pittsburgh Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Anthony C. Infanti is available to comment on DOMA. Section 3 of DOMA 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 are before the Supreme Court in Windsor 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 guarantee embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Infanti. “In addition, since Section 3 applies only to federal law and Windsor does not involve challenges to Section 2 of DOMA—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 (and other legal relationships) 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, the Florida Tax Review, the Virginia 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.

Infanti is well situated to comment on the Defense of Marriage Act and related issues as the author of Everyday Law for Gays and Lesbians (and Those Who Care About Them) (Paradigm Publishers, 2007), which includes a chapter titled “Marriage and Its Alternatives” and discussions about DOMA, state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings, and constitutional law; and as the coeditor of Critical Tax Theory: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2009). 

Infanti’s teaching areas in 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.