Supreme Court hears gay marriage cases

by John Osborn staff writer

As politicians from around the country face rising political pressure from a vigorous gay rights lobby, the Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides in its consideration of two cases that could have sweeping implications for both state and national marriage law.

In an article on mondaq.com, Scott N. Weston laid out the history surrounding the first case that came before the justices on Tuesday, March 26: Dennis Hollingsworth, et al., v. Kristin M. Perry, et al. This case centers on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a state ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that passed in 2008. This amendment defined the state’s marriage laws to consist only of a union between a man and a woman. The statute was declared unconstitutional in 2010 by the California Supreme court, a ruling later validated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which maintained that, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” If the Supreme Court rules against the law, observers note, it would most likely be at the state level.

However the next day, March 27, the court heard arguments for and against a national act, Ken Klukowski reported on breitbart.com. They heard testimony concerning the adoption of U.S. vs. Windsor, a case which has broad implications for federal and state law currently functioning under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As Klukowski stated, the plaintiff, Edith Windsor, contends that the different estate and tax treatment that gay and heterosexual couples receive under the law is unconstitutional and that the act was passed out of animosity towards homosexuals. Justice Anthony Kennedy is quoted as saying that the overturning of DOMA could raise the issue of state’s rights: “The question is whether or not the federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage.”

On the day after the proceedings, cnn.com reported that things didn’t look good for DOMA: “A majority of justices raised questions in oral arguments Wednesday about the federal Defense of Marriage Act, indicating the Supreme Court may strike down a key part of the law that denies legally married same-sex couples the same benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.” The article goes on to say that a slim majority of justices voiced support for overturning DOMA, stating that it appeared to violate state sovereignty in areas that have legalized gay marriage.

As it currently stands, DOMA provides certain tax and estate benefits for those under traditional marriage, which has created a divide in states that have legalized same-sex marriage. As huffingtonpost.com reported, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in an interview after the proceedings, this act has created a double standard of sorts: “There’s two kinds of marriage, there’s full marriage and then there’s sort of skim-milk marriage.”

There is obvious dissent among other justices, including Chief Justice Roberts. As washingtonpost.com reported, Roberts voiced his doubts over whether the court should adopt the cases, citing a lack of judicial precedent. Roberts said, “It’s not just unusual, it’s totally unprecedented.” It will be several months until the Supreme Court rules on either of the cases. For now, both parties will have to fight in the legislative branch until the court has made its decision.

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This piece is considered a “standard” article in our print edition.
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