The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to grant hearings to two cases with broad implications for the definition of marriage in the United States. Specifically, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s 2008 popularly approved Proposition 8 upholding marriage will be in focus.
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 last year unilaterally decided the Executive Branch would no longer defend it in court, forcing the U.S. House GOP to pick up the slack. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is also leading a legislative effort to repeal DOMA.
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.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations
Published: December 14, 2012