This is important – I consider gay marriage to be the defining civil rights issue of our time.
Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA – specified that the federal government did not have to provide benefits to same sex spouses. Today’s ruling strikes that provision. It does not say that people have the right to a same sex marriage – only that the federal government must provide benefits to their spouses if they are legally married under state law.
This ruling is no suprise to me and I’m glad it went the way it did. DOMA Section two remains in place. That basically says that a state does not have to recognize a same sex marriage that happened in another state.
Proposition Eight ruling
This case to me was the one that had the potential to put the gay marriage argument to rest once and for all. It did not quite reach that level, but it is a step forward. The case and its ramifications are significantly more complicated but I’ll take a stab at summarizing it.
In 2008, California passed Proposition 8 – a change to California’s constitution which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. US District Court ruled in Perry V Schwarzenegger that Prop. 8 violated equal protection provisions in the Fourteen Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed with the decision.
The state did not appeal the decision. Supporters of Prop. 8 appealed the decision themselves and eventually Hollingsworth v. Perry came to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS ruled that parties who brought the suit did not have standing to appeal the previous rulings on Prop. 8.
The crux of the matter
Since SCOTUS did not rule directly on Prop. 8 it means that current federal case law as stated in Perry v Schwarzenegger stands. That case law says that same sex marriage can not be made illegal because doing so violates due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. States that currently have bans on same sex marriage will keep them until they are individually challenged in court. Eventually one of these dam buster cases will make it to the Supreme Court – a pure appeal of a state law or constitution clause that bans same-sex marriage. Yesterday the court punted on saying that directly.
In a nutshell – denying gay people the right to marry is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The states with bans on same-sex marriage are standing on very shaky ground that is likely to collapse beneath them.
Have a gay day.