Supreme Court To Tackle Same Sex Marriage

Supreme CourtSupreme Court Justices

The United States Supreme Court has announced that for the first time, it will hear two cases involving same-sex marriage.  The first case questions the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  What will be determined is whether or not the federal government can withhold federal benefits to legally married gay couples; benefits automatically guaranteed to heterosexual couples.  The second case will tackle Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.  The significance of this case can not be overstated as it could determine whether or not gay marriage is protected by the Constitution.  It would essentially mean that any state laws banning same-sex marriage would no longer be legal.  The parallel would be Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion throughout the country and disallowed states from banning the procedure.  Proposition 8 was voted on and passed by the electorate but was subsequently overturned on narrow grounds by a federal appeals court.  Opponents of same-sex marriage appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming it’s the right of the individual states to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  While logic would dictate it’s a positive development that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear these cases, not everyone in support of same-sex marriage is happy with the timing.  Mary Bonato of GLAD, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said she “can’t help but be concerned” about the prospect of the court addressing Proposition 8 right now. “I think it’s extremely important we engage all the branches of government and the all-important court of public opinion, so that the Supreme Court would have a high comfort level that they are not too far ahead of public opinion.”  Her concerns may be well founded, but there is little chance the Court is taking these cases at this time, only to confirm the legality of defining a marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  Those who believe Scalia and Thomas are right-wing zealots, may in fact be surprised.  None of these justices want to be on the wrong side of history.  One need not be a Constitutional Law scholar to understand it would be difficult to find language in the Constitution that would allow for the discrimination of any individual or group, particularly in the year 2013 when these cases will be heard.  Expect history making decisions to be handed down by this Court.

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