Eager to be eyewitnesses to history, people camped for days in the dismal cold, shivering in the slanting shadow of the Capitol dome, to claim tickets for the Supreme Court’s historic oral arguments on same-sex marriage. Some hoped that the Justices would extend marriage rights; others prayed that they would not. When at last the doors of the white marble temple swung open on March 26 for the first of two sessions devoted to the subject, the lucky ones found seats in time to hear Justice Anthony Kennedy — author of two important earlier decisions in favor of gay rights and likely a key vote this time as well — turn the tables on the attorney defending the traditionalist view. Charles Cooper was extolling heterosexual marriage as the best arrangement in which to raise children when Kennedy interjected: What about the roughly 40,000 children of gay and lesbian couples living in California? “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” Kennedy said. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” Nearly as ominous for the folks against change was the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts plunged into a discussion of simply dismissing the California case. That would let stand a lower-court ruling, and same-sex couples could add America’s most populous state to the growing list of jurisdictions where they can be lawfully hitched.
It’s not a subject that marriage-equality groups tend to trumpet on their websites, but gay couples are at the start of a divorce boom. One reason is obvious: More couples are eligible. According to a report by UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 50,000 of the approximately 640,000 gay couples in the U.S. in 2011 were married. (Another 100,000 were in other kinds of legal relationships, such as domestic partnerships.) The marriage rate, in states that allowed it, was quickly rising toward that of heterosexual couples: In Massachusetts as of that year, 68 percent of gay couples were married, compared with 91 percent of heterosexual couples. Another reason for the coming boom is that while first-wave gay marriages have proved more durable than straight ones (according to the Williams Institute, about one percent of gay marriages were dissolving each year, compared with 2 percent for different-sex couples), that’s not expected to last. Most lawyers I spoke to assume that the gap will soon vanish, once the backlog of long-term and presumably more stable gay couples have married, leaving the field to the young and impulsive.
(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights on Wednesday by forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal and paving the way for it in California, the most populous state.
As expected, however, the court fell short of a broader ruling endorsing a fundamental right for gay people to marry, meaning that there will be no impact in the more than 30 states that do not recognize gay marriage.
The two cases, both decided on 5-4 votes, concerned the constitutionality of a key part of a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied benefits to same-sex married couples, and a voter-approved California state law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.
The court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, which limited the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal benefits, as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Jasmyne Cannick didn’t join the folks in West Hollywood celebrating the gay marriage victory handed down by the Supreme Court this week.
She was too busy mourning the assault on minorities’ voting rights the court unleashed the day before.
Cannick is a lesbian. She’s also black. “And I didn’t feel like dancing for joy,” she said.
She’s not alone in feeling conflicted. For many people, including me, the high court’s flurry of recent rulings feels like one big step forward on civil rights, and a whole lot of shuffling back.
The day before the court expanded gays’ rights to marry, it gutted the Voting Rights Act. That gives new life to old efforts to suppress minority turnout by freeing Southern states with a history of voter discrimination from strict federal oversight.
In the weeks before that, the court toughened standards for college affirmative action programs that promote diversity; made it harder for employees to challenge workplace discrimination, harassment and firings; and narrowed constitutional protections against self-incrimination, extending law enforcement’s reach.
One reason Americans have moved so rapidly toward support of same-sex marriage is their stubborn bias toward liberty. When interest groups demand something material, or when they seek to take something from other groups, the public is apt to resist. But when a group asks to live and let live, it can usually count on getting its way.
Legal scholars have long thought that if the Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage, it would base that decision on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws.” When Justice Anthony Kennedy made the case for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, though, he relied on a different provision. DOMA, he wrote, “is a deprivation of an essential part of the liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
The right to marry a person of the same sex fits perfectly within Thomas Jefferson’s conception of freedom. “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God,” he wrote. “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
WASHINGTON (RNS) — The Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, while historic, didn’t settle the issue. In fact, they fuel it.
For President Obama, the repercussions of Wednesday’s (June 26) ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act will mean review and revisions in hundreds of federal laws. In everything from Social Security checks to Pentagon benefits, gay married couples now must be treated the same way as heterosexual couples.
For gay rights advocates, the twin decision that opens the door to resume same-sex marriages in California bolstered determination to expand the right to wed for gay men and lesbians. The Human Rights Campaign set a goal to achieve that in all 50 states within the next five years.