US SUPREME COURT GRANTS CERTIORARI TO HEAR LOWER COURT’S DECISIONS TO ALLOW SAME SEX COUPLES TO MARRY IN CALIFORNIA ALONG WITH THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF DOMA
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Florida (The Center) recognizes the historic developments raised by the announcement from the United States Supreme Court that is will review the lower Federal courts’ decision that ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, along with a separate case that will determine the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996.
Hollingsworth v. Perry
In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. An estimated 18,000 same-sex couples were married before the discriminatory ballot measure, Proposition 8, passed that November, amending the state constitution to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. In August 2011, a federal district judge ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, and the Ninth Circuit appeals court panel affirmed that ruling in February 2012, holding that California’s stripping away of the freedom to marry lacked a legitimate purpose and violated the Constitution.
At last, the issue of freedom to marry will be addressed by the nation’s highest court. We hope and expect that the justices will stand on the right side of history by affirming that marriage is a fundamental freedom that may not be denied to same-sex couples. The Constitution is built on our nation’s fundamental concepts of liberty and equality, and Proposition 8 is inherently contrary to those principles and should be struck down.
There are several options before the Supreme Court. It could reverse it, leaving California’s ban on same-sex marriage in place. It could affirm on the narrower issues raised by the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court, which would allow same-sex marriage in California but not elsewhere. Or it could address the broader question of whether the Constitution requires states to allow such marriages, possibly allowing same-sex marriages to be recognized in all states.
“While initially disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to issue Writ of Certiorari to hear the Perry decision, it does open the door for an expansion of the freedom to marry to all states, rather than limiting the decision to just California. ” stated Randy Stephens, Executive Director of The Center. “ The Election Day victories that allow freedom to marry in four states, coupled with the reelection of the first sitting President to support such marriage, shows the strength of the momentum in favor of marriage equality.”
Over the past 130 years the Supreme Court has stated 14 times that the right to marry is a fundamental right. “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S.1 (1967). Marriage is “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.” Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888).
Opponents of freedom to marry have constantly argued ad nauseam that allowing same-sex marriage would destroy the sanctity of marriage. Same sex marriages have been recognized in several states, some for almost a decade, at which there is no evidence that the sanctity of any marriage has been destroyed or even threatened by same-sex marriage. (Such causes are usually adultery, finances or moral turpitude) The fabric of our society remains as strong with the freedom to marry, if not stronger. What the opponents need to recognize is that with the joys and responsibilities of marriage, gay couples have committed to taking care of each other in a way that society and government respects. This makes families stronger, which makes communities, states, and our nation stronger.
Windsor v. United States
In 1996 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as between only a man and a woman for purposes of more than 1,100 federal laws and programs. While 9 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages, this Act prohibits same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits that opposite sex couples enjoy, including but not limited the filing of joint tax returns before the IRS, receiving social security Benefits of their spouse, and suffering additional penalties in the filing of Federal Estate Tax
In 10 rulings, eight federal courts have found the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional – specifically Section 3, which excludes same-sex couples from marriage. The Department of Justice and the Obama administration determined in February 2011 that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and could not be defended in court. Several of the federal court decisions were handed down by conservative judges, appointed by presidents from Nixon to Reagan to both Bushes.
The Supreme Court chose the Windsor case partly because of its uniqueness in that actual damage was clearly established. The case concerns two New York City women, Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer, who were married in 2007 in Canada. Ms. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited her property. The 1996 DOMA law did not allow the Internal Revenue Service to treat Ms. Windsor as a surviving spouse, and she faced a tax bill of some $360,000 that a spouse in an opposite-sex marriage would not have had to pay. Ms. Windsor sued, and in October the federal appeals court in New York struck down the 1996 law.
“DOMA’s has raised its ugly head many times, resulting not only in financial losses for legally married couples, but punishes a minority without sufficient justification. It is not only a denial of due process, but completely ignores the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution “stated Stephens. “On average, same-sex couples pay an average of $6,000 a year more in Federal Income Tax because of the unlawful denial to file joint tax returns. This is not only a matter of marriage equality, but also of financial equality.”
Oral arguments for both cases are scheduled for March, 2013 with decisions expected to be delivered during the latter part of the following June.
The Center, located at 946 N. Mills Ave. Orlando, FL 32803 is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing, educating, supporting and advocating on behalf of the LGBT Community and its allies.