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Marriage Cases in Supreme Court Proceed

Supreme CourtThe same day the infamous Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision turned 40, two potentially monumental marriage cases advanced at the Supreme Court as the filings of the first briefs in both were due. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s 2008 popularly approved Proposition 8 upholding marriage are under scrutiny in these cases.

The first case, Windsor v. United States, centers around an 83-year-old woman from New York arguing that DOMA violates her equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. DOMA defines marriage in federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman and allows states to make their own individual decisions on the matter for state law. Though signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, the Obama Administration unilaterally decided the Executive Branch would no longer defend it in court, forcing the U.S. House GOP to pick up the slack. The House brief filed Tuesday stated, “DOMA reflected Congress’ determination that each sovereign should be able to determine for itself how to define marriage for purposes of its own law.”  It also declared:

         Gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and 
         best-organized groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political 
         power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history.
         Characterizing such a group as politically powerless would be wholly inconsistent with this
         Court’s admonition that a class should not be regarded as suspect when the group has some
        ‘ability to attract the attention of lawmakers.’

The second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, passed by California voters in a 2008 referendum, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. That popularly enacted state marriage law is being attacked on the grounds of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court Justices are slated for these cases on March 26 and 27.

By Aaron Mercer
Vice President Government Relations

Published: January 25, 2013

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