Marriage at the Supreme Court in 2013
This year, the Supreme Court of the United States will review two marriage cases, marking the first time that the freedom to marry for same-sex couples will be considered by the nation's highest court. One case, Windsor v. United States, challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect for legal marriages between same-sex couples. The other case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenges California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment pushed through by anti-gay activists in 2008 to strip same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in California.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in both cases for March 26 (Perry) and March 27 (Windsor). The Supreme Court is expected to announce its rulings in June 2013.
Keep track of all of the developments with the Windsor and Perry cases here.
Windsor v. United States
The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. DOMA mandates unequal treatment of legally married same-sex couples, selectively depriving them of the 1,138+ protections and responsibilities that marriage triggers at the federal level.
DOMA's Section 3 defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, thus prohibiting the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between same-sex couples. Those couples are subsequently denied a long list of important protections and responsibilities, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation.
Windsor v. United States deals directly with DOMA's Section 3. The case dates back to November 2010, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old widowed lesbian from New York who sued the government for the $363,000 in estate taxes that she was forced to pay under DOMA following the death of her late partner Thea Spyer in 2010. Windsor and Spyer were together for more than 40 years and wed in Canada in 2007. Because of DOMA, their marriage was not respected by the federal government.
On June 6, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones sided with Windsor by ruling DOMA's Section 3 - which explicitly restricts marriage to different-sex couples - unconstitutional. On October 18, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that lower ruling.
The Supreme Court announced that it will review Windsor v. United States on Friday, December 7.
The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is working to defend DOMA before the Court, filed its opening brief on January 22. The Department of Justice and Edie Windsor's lawyers are expected to file their own briefings by the end of February.
Oral arguments for the case took place on Wednesday, March 27. A ruling is expected by June 2013.
Briefs supporting the end of DOMA have been filed in the Windsor case by a wide variety of voices, including the Obama administration, a coalition of nearly 300 businesses, Edith Windsor, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and House Democrats.
Hollingsworth v. Perry
The Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown) dates back to May 2009, when the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Prop 8, which passed in California on November 4, 2008, is a citizens' initiative that repealed the freedom to marry in the state, overturning a May 2008 decision from the California Supreme Court legalizing marriage for same-sex couples across the state.
On August 4, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional and discriminatory, writing, "California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians." Proponents of Prop 8 appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On February 7, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed Judge Walker's ruling, stating, "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.
The Supreme Court announced that it will review Hollingsworth v. Perry on Friday, December 7.
The proponents of Proposition 8 filed their opening brief on January 22. Opponents of the amendment are expected to file their own briefs by the end of February.
Oral arguments for the case took place on Tuesday, March 26. A ruling is expected by June 2013.
Amicus briefs supporting the end of Proposition 8 in the Hollingsworth case have been filed by a wide variety of voices, including the Obama Administration, a coalition of 80+ Republican leaders, attorneys for AFER, state-wide LGBT organizations, and nearly 300 businesses and corporations that support marriage for same-sex couples.
Supreme Court Review of Marriage Cases Has Impact for Same-Sex Couples
The review of DOMA and Prop 8 could have far-ranging economic and regulatory implications for same-sex couples and their families, The Williams Institute reports. Since at least 20 percent of the estimated 645,000 same-sex couples nationally live in jurisdictions with the freedom to marry, DOMA repeal would have a profound impact on thousands of people, and Prop 8 repeal would help the nearly 100,000 same-sex couples living in California. READ MORE.
14 Supreme Court Cases: Marriage is a Fundamental Right
Since 1888, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared marriage a fundamental right for all individuals in fourteen cases. The American Foundation for Equal Rights has collected all 14 of them HERE. READ MORE.
Prop 8 Case Timeline from American Foundation for Equal Rights
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