HBS 035 Interview w_ Robbie Kaplan -Then Comes Marriage_ United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA


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HBS 035 Interview w_ Robbie Kaplan -Then Comes Marriage_ United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA

Roberta A. "Robbie" Kaplan is an American lawyer. She is the founding partner of Kaplan & Company, LLP, a law firm dedicated to commercial litigation and public interest matters, and an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School. Until July 2017, she was a partner in the Litigation Department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Kaplan successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of her client, Edith Windsor, in United States v. Windsor (2013). This resulted in a landmark decision that invalidated a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. Windsor led to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down all remaining state and federal laws against same-sex marriage across the United States.

United States v. Windsor In 2009, Kaplan agreed to represent Edie Windsor pro bono. Windsor's wife, Thea Spyer, had died two years after they wed in Canada, leaving Windsor her sole heir. But because their marriage was not recognized under existing U. S. federal law, Windsor received an estate tax bill of $363,053. Windsor went to gay rights advocates seeking redress but could find no one to take her case. She was referred to Kaplan, who later recalled, "When I heard her story, it took me about five seconds, maybe less, to agree to represent her." Kaplan had been co-counsel on the unsuccessful bid for marriage equality in New York state in 2006.

In a spirited exchange between Kaplan and Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments for the case, Roberts alleged that politicians were "falling all over themselves" to support her case. Kaplan responded, "The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have."

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. Edith Windsor declared, "Robbie Kaplan said, as Martin Luther King said before her, there is no wrong time to seek justice."

Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan, the founding partner at Kaplan & Company, LLP, one of the few women-led elite boutique litigation law firms has been described as a “powerhouse corporate litigator” and “pressure junkie” who “thrives on looking at the big picture” whether “in the gay-marriage legal fight or high-profile corporate scandals.”

She has been selected as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States, as a “Litigator of the Year” by The American Lawyer, and as a “Lawyer of the Year” by Above the Law.

In addition to representing large institutional and corporate clients like Fitch Ratings, Airbnb, Columbia University and T-Mobile,

Robbie book “Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA” (W.W. Norton 2015), was chosen by the L.A. Times and Ms. Magazine as one of the top 10 books of 2015.

In commenting on the book, President Bill Clinton called Robbie an “American hero.”

Robbie has received numerous recognitions for her legal accomplishments and charitable activities, including the New York Law Journal Lifetime Achievement Award;

Financial Times Legal Innovator of the Year; the Columbia Law School Medal of Excellence; as well as an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Kaplan wrote about United States v. Windsor in the book Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA.

Roberta A. "Robbie" Kaplan Kaplan & Company, LLP. @kaplanrobbie

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