Two Gay Marriage Cases Decided by Supreme Court
DOMA and United States v. Windsor
On June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor declaring unconstitutional the part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage solely as a legal union between a man and a woman.
Speaking for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
In his dissent, Justice Scalia argued that DOMA “…did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history… In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “The ruling means that more than 100,000 gay and lesbian couples who are legally married will be able to take advantage of tax breaks, pension rights and other benefits that are available to other married couples.”
California’s Proposition 8 and Hollingsworth v. Perry
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had affirmed on Feb. 7, 2012 that California’s anti-gay marriage initiative known as Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. That case was appealed to the US Supreme Court, not by the state of California, which chose not to defend its invalidated law, but by private parties. The Supreme Court ruled that those private party defenders of Proposition 8 lacked standing to represent the case. This decision is considered to clear the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California once the federal court lifts the stay.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in a statement from its president Brian Brown, said: “In a miscarriage of justice the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the decision of a single federal court judge to overturn the perfectly legal action of over 7 million California voters who passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera estimated that same-sex weddings could resume in California by late July, following a 25-day period for sponsors to ask the high court to reconsider the case, plus a few additional days for a court mandate to be issued.
Including California, there are now 13 states where gay marriage is legal. 35 states have gay marriage bans through either laws or constitutional amendments or both.
Eve Batey, “Farewell Prop 8: SF City Attorney Vows to Litigate Aggressively to Ensure Marriage Equality for California,” sfappeal.com, June 26, 2013
Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage with Two Major Rulings,” nytimes.com, June 26, 2013
Elizabeth Ray, “NOM Sharply Condemns US Supreme Court Over Illegitimate Rulings Legislating from the Bench on Marriage and Rewarding Corrupt Politicians and Federal Judges on Prop 8 and DOMA,” National Organization for Marriage website, June 26, 2013
David G. Savage, “Gay Marriage Ruling: Supreme Court Finds DOMA Unconstitutional,” latimes.com, June 26, 2013
Supreme Court of the United States, “Hollingsworth et al. v. Perry et al.,” supremecourt.gov, June 26, 2013
Supreme Court of the United States, “United States v. Windsor, Executor of the Estate of Spyer, et al.,” supremecourt.gov, June 26, 2013
Richard Wolf, “Justices Open Door to Same-Sex Marriages in California,” usatoday.com, June 26, 2013