U.S. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA and Prop 8 (Final)
Photo via Instagram user tylerpcarr
FINAL UPDATE, AND AN ORIGINAL GAYRVA STORY: In a historic day for LGBT people nation wide, the Supreme Court ruled part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and rejected California’s Proposition 8 appeal on same-sex marriages.
Edith “Edie” Windsor, 84 was the significant plaintiff of DOMA’s case. According to CNN, after her wife’s death in 2009, Windsor “was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those that other married couples would have to pay”.
Because DOMA defined marriage as between a man and a woman, same-sex couples like Windsor and her spouse were not given federal benefits such as Social Security and medical leave. “The whole design of [DOMA] was to discriminate and punish a certain set of people,” said Michael Hamar, a Norfolk-based Attorney with a history of covering LGBT issues.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Court said DOMA was unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. As said on CNN, now “same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits”. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed by the Republican president Ronald Reagan, was the swing vote.
“[Kennedy] is conservative in a lot of ways,” said Hamar. “But I think he is a liberal when it comes to personal rights and treating people equally”
Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 by California voters after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages. CNN reported “two of the original plaintiffs–Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, A Burbank, California, couple who want to marry but could not because of Proposition 8–contended the state was discriminating against them because of their sexuality”.
According to Huffington Post, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2012 and “gave gay marriage opponents time to appeal the 2-1 decision before ordering the state to allow same-sex weddings to resume”.
Those who opposed same-sex marriage filed an appeal on the ruling, which was heard by the Supreme Court. “The parties that filed the appeal are the group that put [Proposition 8] on the ballot,” said Hamar. “None of them really have a direct stake in Prop 8…it doesn’t do anything to their marriages and it did nothing to their church’s ability to not marry gays.”
The Supreme Court denied the appeal in a historic 5-4 vote Wednesday. CNN announced the Court “dismissed [the] appeal…on jurisdictional grounds, ruling private parties do not have ‘standing’ to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock”. As a result, same-sex marriages can resume in California.
By ruling based on jurisdictional grounds, the Supreme Court postponed a decision to declare gay marriage as a constitutional right. “Same-sex marriage supporters rallied outside the court with the hope that justices will eventually issue a broad ruling to strike down band nationwide” [CNN]
NOTES FROM THIS MORNINGS COVERAGE
UPDATE 1: CNN is reporting the overturning of DOMA allows “same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits”
UPDATE 2: Justice Kennedy was the swing on the vote, he was joined by the 4 liberal justices. Kennedy has a fairly conservative background and ais a bit back and fourth on LGBT issues including gay-adoption.
Update 3: From SCOTUS BLOG – “What this means, in plain terms, is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.”
Developing story, check back for updates.
UPDATE: Some good quotes from the DOMA decision
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State. It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”
UPDATE 5: More from SCOTUSBlog on DOMA:
Here’s a Plain English take on United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case: The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.
Adam Liptak: of The New York Times, who writes that the decision in Windsor “will immediately extend some federal benefits to same-sex couples, but it will also raise a series of major decisions for the Obama administration about how aggressively to overhaul references to marriage throughout the many volumes that lay out the laws of the United States.”
UPDATE 7: DOMA on foreign same-sex spouses:
Comment From Jasper
how will the DOMA ruling affect citizenship applications for foreign same sex spouses? From Kevin: This will surely be a much debated question. The Administration will first have to decide whether it will try to argue that DOMA remains in effect in this context. If it says “yes,” then there will surely be legal challenges to that decision.
PROP 8 Bounced back to lower court
UPDATE 4: PROP 8 – SCOTUS has agreed with the lower court on the inability of a private group to support a state law, after state law maker’s have refused to defend it – A breakdown from SCOTUSBlog:
Here’s a Plain English take on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage: After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case.
More from SCOTUS BLOG:
There will be much further discussion and analysis about how the decision in Perry affects other couples in California. For the time being, we will say this: the Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal challenging a final order from the trial court. It would appear, then, that the order will go into effect. And it appears that this final order purports to prohibit the Attorney General and the Governor from enforcing Prop. 8.
There could well be new challenges to the scope of that order. But for the time being, the order appears to be in effect and to prevent enforcement of Proposition 8 statewide.
Maya Earls and is a second-year journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was born in Los Angeles, and moved to Richmond in 2000. Her first journalism experience was managing social media for the Rock4Life benefit concert.She enjoys exploring Richmond on her bike and finding good views of the river. Her favorite past-time is watching people dance in their cars from her apartment window.
“I am optimistic that marriage equality will soon be the law of the land.”January 16, 2015
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