Same Sex Marriage Verdict from Supreme Court and some responses
Two Major Rulings Bolster Gay Marriage
— Married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to federal benefits, the Supreme
Court ruled on Wednesday in a major victory for the gay rights movement.
a second decision, the court declined to say whether there is a constitutional
right to same-sex marriage. Instead, the justices said that a case concerning
California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was not properly before
them. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s
decision against them and because the proponents of Proposition 8 were not
entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal the decision, the court said,
it was powerless to issue a decision.
ruling leaves in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation. Its
consequences for California were not immediately clear, but many legal analysts
say that same-sex marriages are likely to resume there in a matter of weeks.
decision on the federal law was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing
the majority opinion, which the four liberal-leaning justices joined.
federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and
effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws,
sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “By
seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in
marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of
the Fifth Amendment.”
Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in the minority, as were Justices Antonin
Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
ruling overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed with bipartisan
support and which President Bill Clinton signed.
decision will immediately extend some federal benefits to same-sex couples, but
it will also raise a series of major questions 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.
the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or
come along with us,” Justice Scalia wrote in his dissent. “The truth is more
Scalia read from his dissent on the bench, a step justices take in a small
share of cases, typically to show that they have especially strong views.
Kennedy, in his opinion, wrote that the law was “unconstitutional as a
deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth
case on the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307,
considered the part of the law that defines marriage as the union of a man and
a woman for purposes of federal benefits. (A different part of the law,
allowing states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states,
was not before the court.)
case concerned two New York City women, Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer, who
married in 2007 in Canada. Ms. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited
her property. The 1996 law did not allow the Internal Revenue Service to treat
Ms. Windsor as a surviving spouse, and she faced a tax bill of about $360,000
that a spouse in an opposite-sex marriage would not have had to pay. Ms.
Windsor sued, and last year the United States Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit, in New York, struck down the 1996 law.
2011, the Justice Department defended the law in court, as it typically does
all acts of Congress. That year, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced
that he and President Obama had concluded that the law was unconstitutional and
unworthy of defense in court, but that the administration would continue to
enforce the law. After the Justice Department stepped aside, House Republicans
intervened to defend the law. Although the administration’s position prevailed
in the lower courts, the Justice Department filed an appeal to the Supreme
Court, saying the final decision should come from the highest court.
Federal Court Speaks, but Couples Still Face State Legal Patchwork
By JEREMY W. PETERS
— Consider two women living at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., who travel
to Maine to get married. When they get back to the base, the military will now
recognize their marriage, affording them a variety of benefits that would go to
any married couple, like health care and a housing allowance.
once they exit Keesler’s gates, they will find their marriage license means
nothing to the state of Mississippi, where same-sex couples cannot adopt
children and employers can fire someone who is gay.
about the case of a gay couple who married in Des Moines but decide to move to
Miami to spend their retirement away from the punishing Iowa winters? If one of
them dies there, the other may not be able to collect the surviving spouse’s
Social Security benefits.
Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday, in United States v. Windsor, to declare
that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution went further than
the federal government ever has in extending equal rights to same-sex couples.
But it left untouched the thicket of conflicting state and local laws that deny
gays and lesbians in the vast majority of states the benefits and legal
recognition that marriage provides.
state line — not a minister, a rabbi or a justice of the peace — still decides
who is married and who is not. This disparate treatment under the law is likely
to remain unless the 37 states that do not permit same-sex unions reverse
course, or if the Supreme Court revisits the question in a broader case and
issues a ruling that establishes a constitutional right to marriage. Given the
court’s decision in a case involving California’s Proposition 8 on Wednesday,
the number of states where gay marriage is legal rose to 13.
as gay rights advocates celebrated a historic step forward on Wednesday, many
of them were already eyeing the next legal frontier that could deliver the
universal recognition of marriage rights that eluded them this time.
in this kind of patchwork country is becoming less and less tenable,” said
Susan Sommer, the director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, the
gay rights group. “If we’re going to have federal benefits and recognition, it
certainly makes a state’s withholding of the freedom to marry come with that
much greater a cost — an impairment of liberty.”
factoring out the conflicts and inequities that remain in state law, federal
law and policy will need an overhaul to accommodate the court’s Windsor
its historic sweep, the court’s ruling came with a large question mark: It may
require Congress to make some of the legal changes necessary to ensure that all
married same-sex couples can receive the benefits of federal programs like
Social Security and veterans’ payments.
Obama said Wednesday that he had directed the attorney general to conduct a
prompt review of federal benefits and obligations to ensure that the decision
is “implemented swiftly and smoothly.” The White House has told gay rights
advocates that it has already started looking into what changes it might be
able to make through administrative and executive orders, steps that would not
require Congressional approval. The Justice Department has created a special
task force for the job.
Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to act quickly on legislation introduced
by Dianne Feinstein of California on Wednesday that would ensure same-sex
couples are not excluded from federal benefits even if they live in states
where their marriages are not recognized. But without the Republican-led
House’s approval, any such measure could not become law.
confusion arises from the various ways the government considers eligibility for
spousal benefits. Different agencies use different criteria in judging whether
a marriage is valid. They could, for instance, consider the marriage valid only
if the state where the couple currently live recognizes it. Or they could look
to the state where the couple filed their most recent tax return, or where they
lived when they applied for benefits, or where they were married.
not just a matter of whether you have a valid marriage license. It’s, Do you
reside in a state that recognizes it?” said Brian Moulton, the legal director
for the Human Rights Campaign.
there will be some disparities in states where a couple are married in the eyes
of the federal government but not in the eyes of the state.
are going to end up seeing couples in a range of different sets of
circumstances that invariably highlight the remaining inequalities,” Mr.
News about Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic
Partnerships, including commentary and archival articles published in The New
Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships Chronology
1. Jun. 27, 2013
California officials and legal scholars say that it will probably
be about a month before same-sex marriages can be performed in wake of Supreme
Court decision that effectively permits legal gay marriages in state. MORE »
2. Jun. 27, 2013
Frank Bruni Op-Ed column observes that Supreme Court's rulings on
gay marriage have consequences beyond the law, particularly in way society as a
whole views homosexuals; relates reaction of family of Tyler Clementi, Rutgers
University student who committed suicide in 2010, to the rulings. MORE »
3. Jun. 27, 2013
Supreme Court decision finding Defense of Marriage Act
unconstitutional leaves untouched thicket of conflicting state and local laws
that deny gays ad lesbians in vast majority of states th benefits and legal
recognition that marriage provides; many gay rights advocates are eyeing next
legal frontier that could deliver universal recognition of marriage rights
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