US Supreme Court Takes on Gay Marriage – With An Escape Route

By , December 9th, 2012 | 14th Amendment, Civil Rights, Government, Same-Sex Marriage | 1 Comment

On Friday, December 7, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) announced it would hear two same-sex marriage cases on this year’s docket. The Court decided to hear California’s Prop 8 case, where a 2008 ballot initiative amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage after the state’s courts recognized same-sex marriages within the state. It also chose to hear a case from New York that challenged the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.

PBS News Hour host Margaret Warner discussed the history of each case and possible outcomes for them when the justices hand down their decisions in June 2013 with National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle. In the Prop 8 case, SCOTUS is being asked to rule if banning same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the DOMA case, they are being asked if the federal government can denied benefits to same-sex married couples while granting them to opposite-sex married couples, especially when the state they live in recognizes both marriages.

PBS News Hour – Supreme Court to Review Laws Banning Same-Sex Marriage

Coyle also pointed out how the justices added the question of standing to each case, leaving an escape route from possibly having to make a decision on the main issue itself. In the Prop 8 case, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Attorney General Jerry Brown would not defend the state DOMA constitutional amendment from a legal challenge so the proponents of the ballot initiative did so themselves. In the New York DOMA case, the New York Times reports that the Obama administration announced in February 2011 that they would no longer defend DOMA in court because it was unconstitutional. The House Republicans took over the defense of DOMA and appealed the lower court’s decision to SCOTUS.

In both these cases, SCOTUS is considering if the defenders of Prop 8 and DOMA have standing to bring their cases in front of the justices. If it is decided that there is no legal justification for them to do so, the justices can rule that the case should never have been brought before them and leave he lower court’s ruling standing, never issuing any ruling on the main issue. However, for Prop 8 that would mean same-sex marriage is legal again in California and in the DOMA case, it would mean at the very least that same-sex married couples residing in New York would start receiving the over one thousand federal benefits opposite-sex married couples are entitled to by law.

Americans For Equal Rights (AFER), the group arguing against Prop 8 to SCOTUS, released a YouTube video update on the court adding their case to this year’s docket. Matt Baume discusses AFER’s past two wins and how the marriage equality was recognized under Fourteenth Amendment then and that SCOTUS will see it the same way.

Americans For Equal Rights – Prop 8 Goes To The Supreme Court

Alliance Defending Freedom explains the importance of maintaining DOMA in their YouTube video. The narrators explain how marriage is a social institution designed in procreation and childrearing and that DOMA allows states to choose their own path on same-sex marriage. They also state that same-sex marriage advocates are looking to broaden the definition of marriage beyond two people to polygamy.

Defending Marriage – Defending DOMA

No matter what the decisions are in June, both sides have several more court cases working their way up to SCOTUS for the next round.

Feature photo credit: Serithian via photopin cc

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