A Visual Guide to United States v. Windsor: Doctrinal Origins of Justice Kennedy's Majority Opinion

108 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 130

1 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2013 Last revised: 5 Nov 2013

See all articles by Colin P. Starger

Colin P. Starger

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: July 5, 2013


After finding the Court had jurisdiction, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in United States v. Windsor reached the merits and concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was in violation of the Fifth Amendment. In his dissent, Justice Scalia attacked the majority’s doctrinal reasoning on the merits as “nonspecific handwaving” that invalidated DOMA “maybe on equal-protection grounds, maybe on substantive due process grounds, and perhaps with some amorphous federalism component playing a role.”

This Visual Guide is a “doctrinal map” that responds to Scalia’s accusation by charting the doctrinal origins of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Specifically, the map shows how both equal protection and substantive due process doctrine have contributed to a constitutional jurisprudence that affirms the rights of same-sex couples.

Moreover, the map also takes the sting from Justice Scalia’s complaints in Windsor that the majority failed to ask under substantive due process whether same-sex marriage was a right “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and also failed to clearly articulate a “tier of scrutiny” when considering whether DOMA violated equal protection. As analysis of the opinions represented in the map demonstrates, the Court has long applied tests other than Scalia’s when conducting both substantive due process and equal protection review. Indeed, Kennedy’s doctrinal approach is consistent with precedent and the particular doctrinal traditions advanced by Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Blackmun.

This Visual Guide is a single-page PDF “poster” designed to serve as quick reference and teaching tool.

Keywords: United States v. Windsor, DOMA, equal protection, substantive due process, same sex marriage, gay rights

Suggested Citation

Starger, Colin P., A Visual Guide to United States v. Windsor: Doctrinal Origins of Justice Kennedy's Majority Opinion (July 5, 2013). 108 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 130 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2290223 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2290223

Colin P. Starger (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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