UPDATE: Scroll down to the update for links to the decisions and excerpts from the cases. In short, DOMA has been overturned and Prop 8 was dismissed based on lack of standing of those bringing the case.
Today, the Supreme Court hands down decisions in two cases which address gay marriage. One, Hollingsworth v. Perry (No. 12-144) decides whether California’s Proposition 8 violates the Constitution. The second case is United States v. Windsor (No. 12-307) in which the court will decide whether a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 violates the Constitution. DOMA defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” for the purpose of determining federal benefits.
Yesterday, the court announced that the rest of the court’s decisions would be announced today. Court watchers think the decision will be out sometime around 10am. All eyes will be on the decision, and, like a lot of blogs and news sources, I will post links to the decisions and commentary about them.
UPDATE: The DOMA decision is out. DOMA has been overturned on a 5-4 vote. From SCOTUS Blog: “5-4:DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
DOMA opinion is here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf
From the opinion (25-26)
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others,the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.
The Prop 8 case may be dismissed based on standing. From Justice Robert’s dissent:
we hold today that we lack jurisdiction to consider it in the particular context of Hollingsworth v. Perry, ante, p. ___. I write only to highlight the limits of the majority’s holding andreasoning today, lest its opinion be taken to resolve notonly a question that I believe is not properly before us—DOMA’s constitutionality—but also a question that all agree, and the Court explicitly acknowledges, is not at issue.
According to Amy Howe at the SCOTUS Blog,
What this means, in plain terms, is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.
No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8, that is not a particularized interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.
Same-sex marriage will be available in CA, at least where court clerks take the position that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.