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Stanford students play role in historic same-sex marriage case

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School was part of the legal team representing Edith Windsor, a New York woman who challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act – and won.

Carolyn Kaster/AP Edith Windsor, center, and Stanford law Professor Pamela Karlan outside the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013.

Edith Windsor, center, and Stanford law Professor Pamela Karlan outside the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013. Karlan and the Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic were part of the legal team representing Windsor in her successful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Supreme Court decision on Wednesday that married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits came after justices examined hundreds of pages of arguments – many written by Stanford law students.

As part of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, students, under the supervision of Professor Pamela Karlan, worked round-the-clock last winter drafting documents to submit to the court. And in March, they flew to Washington to attend oral arguments.

The clinic was part of the legal team representing Edith Windsor, a New York woman who challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act – and won. The 5-4 decision Wednesday said that denying federal benefits to married same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

"The clinic is thrilled with the court's decision today – both for our client and for having had the privilege to have played a part in this historic case," said Professor Jeffrey Fisher, who co-directs the clinic with Karlan.

Fisher called the four students who assisted in the research, briefing and oral argument preparation – Nico Martinez, Elizabeth Dooley, Bailey Heaps and Michael Baer – "instrumental in that effort."

Founded in 2004, the clinic gives students a unique opportunity to work in an area of the law that even many lawyers never see – the Supreme Court.

In a June 3 article from Stanford Lawyer magazine, Karlan describes the experience as "a unique opportunity for students to see this kind of case from the inside. It was a front-row seat on history."

Heaps, who graduated this year, put it this way: "Attending oral argument with our client in the room made me realize that's why we were there – for Edie. It wasn't just an abstract case in Constitutional Law."

Read the full article describing how the clinic got involved in the DOMA case and the work the students did: "At the Supreme Court: Boats and Marriage."