MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN THE COURTS
(Updated 5 February 2013)
On 26 June 2013, the United States Supreme Court handed down historic rulings in United States v. Windsor (DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (California's Proposition 8). These decisions profoundly advanced the movement for marriage equality nationwide. Windsor invalidated section 3 of DOMA, which excluded married same-sex couples from over 1,000 rights and protections under federal law that all other married couples had. The Supreme Court’s jurisdictional decision in Hollingsworth let stand the United States District Court’s 2010 decision striking down Proposition 8 and thus restored marriage equality to California, our nation’s most populous state. The Court’s procedural decision in Hollingsworth did not address the substantive issue of the freedom of same-sex couples to marry nationwide, an issue the Court will likely decide at a future date.
In Windsor, the Supreme Court stated: [T]he principal purpose and the necessary effect of … (DOMA) are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage....
DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State [of New York], 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, …(Section 3 of DOMA) is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The District Court in its decision striking down Prop 8 stated: Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Marriage Equality USA filed a unique amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the 2013 marriage cases, intended to ensure that the Court understood that their decisions would have a direct and profound impact on the lives of millions of LGBT Americans, their friends, family, and allies. Click here to read Marriage Equality USA’s amicus brief.
Many lawsuits across the country now challenge: 1) the section 2 of DOMA (the only remaining substantive section of the law), which specifically authorizes states to disregard marriages of same-sex couples, conducted in states with marriage equality; 2) state bans on marriage for same-sex couples where the state permits domestic partnerships or civil unions; 3) state bans on marriage for same-sex couples where couples have no rights or protections under state law; and 4) other state laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in other ways.
Many observers believe that the United States Supreme Court may take another case pertaining to marriage equality soon, possibly as early as the 2014-2015 term, which could result in another Supreme Court decision as early as June 2015. No marriage equality case is on the Court’s docket for the 2013-2014 term, ending in June 2014.
On 29 October 2013 Marriage Equality USA joined Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and many other organizations in an amicus brief in the Hawaii and Nevada marriage equality cases before the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals . Click here to read the brief.
The Supreme Court’s decisions greatly affect LGBT couples and their families. Click here to find resources about the effects of these decisions on our lives.