Supreme Court Finds DOMA Unconstitutional; Doesn’t Rule on Proposition 8



Waiting for DOMA SCOTUS Ruling

The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act (Act) is unconstitutional.  DOMA denied homosexual couples from various federal tax, health and pension benefits that were available to traditional married couples.

Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority said in their ruling that “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”  After recognizing and affirming the State’s traditional role of determining marriage they then say:

The State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. But the Federal Government uses the state-defined class for the opposite purpose—to impose restrictions and disabilities. The question is whether the resulting injury and indignity is a deprivation of an essential part of the liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment, since what New York treats as alike the federal law deems unlike by a law designed to injure the same class the State seeks to protect. New York’s actions were a proper exercise of its sovereign authority. They reflect both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.

In essence they write, “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”

Essentially all this does is move the jurisdiction to the States.  We are still waiting for their ruling on Proposition 8.  Now this seems to respect the state’s role in defining marriage.

You can read the ruling below:

 

SCOTUS Ruling on United States v. Windsor

 

The Supreme Court declined to rule on Proposition 8 determining that those who brought to repeal had no legal standing to do so.   Basically saying they have no jurisdiction. I’m not happy with this decision as it muddies the water and it allows oligarchy.  The initial California Supreme Court ruling on this was correct.  The Federal district court and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disenfranchised California voters.  This seems that it clears the way for marriage licenses to be issued for same-sex couples in California, but this ruling is messy.  The California Supreme Court said a law couldn’t be invalidated because the Governor and Attorney General fail to enact it.  They don’t have veto power like that.  Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court seems to affirm that.

As a whole it is interesting when reading Justice Kennedy’s opinion seems to indicate that the Court shouldn’t meddle with marriage laws in a state – including laws protecting marriage to between one man and one woman.  Had the State of California defended Proposition 8 the DOMA ruling seems to indicate that they would possibly overturn the lower court ruling.  If that isn’t the case they would contradict themselves.

In the minority dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said that this is a “diseased root: an exalted notion of the role of this court in American democratic society.”  He was not pleased the court took the case at all.  He also said, “we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”

Justice Samuel Alito said, “the Constitution does not guarantee the right to enter into a same-sex marriage.  Indeed, no provision of the Constitution speaks to the issue.

In a nutshell we see that  they are saying the battle belongs at the state level.  They did not say there is a Federal right to same-sex marriage so in that there is a glimmer of good news.  In California we just have a mess.

Photo credit: Victoria Pickering via Flickr (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

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  • Baltimatt

    This is certainly good news for legally-married same-sex couples and their children who will no longer be second-class citizens in the eyes of the federal government.