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Out100 Readers' Choice

Readers' Choice Award Nomination: Roberta Kaplan

Readers' Choice Award Nomination: Roberta Kaplan


The lawyer who tried the case that took down DOMA still says it's all about Edie Windsor's incredible life story

Photo by Sigrid Estrada

When Edie Windsor first approached Roberta Kaplan about taking the case, the 46-year-old lawyer (a partner at the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison), found Windsor's life story so compelling that she made a split-second decision to take the case, and it eventually ended up before the Supreme Court--which has changed the trajectory of her life and career.

It took 16 days for Kaplan to write the brief for the Defense of Marriage Act case that went before the Supreme Court this year, and Roberta Kaplan said she drew inspiration from a single Post-it note she affixed to her computer: "It's all about Edie, stupid."

Although Kaplan's practice largely involved regulatory and commercial litigation, she is no stranger to big LGBT rights cases. In 2006 she argued the case for same-sex marriage rights in front of New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals. The ruling and the rationale the judges employed made for a bitter disappointment. Justice Robert Smith, writing for the majority, reasoned that same-sex couples had no constitutional right to marry and that the state had interest in encouraging straight couples to wed because they could accidentally wind up conceiving a baby while having sex.

"It is not irrational for the legislature to provide an incentive for opposite-sex couples," Smith wrote, "for whom children may be conceived from casual, even momentary intimate relationships, to marry create a family environment, and support their children."

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Now her life will forever be changed after the SCOTUS win. "The facts of [Edie's] life make such an incredibly strong case for why DOMA is unconstitutional, and that has stayed with me the entire time we were writing the brief," Kaplan said.

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