History is Made: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal and California Laws Limiting Same Sex Marriage

by on June 26, 2013 · 2 comments

in California, Civil Rights, History

5-4 Ruling Says Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, California Decision Limited to in-State Unions

equality symbolBy Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

Opinion on DOMA was by Justice Kennedy, joined by the four liberal Justices — Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

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

Here’s a copy of the opinion. The impact of the case is the federal govt will have to re-work all their regulations to make benefits available to same sex couples. Note that Section 2 of DOMA was not struck down, meaning this ruling has no direct impact on State that ban same sex unions.

In CA, CT, DC, DE, IA, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NY, RI, VT, WA same sex marriages now have full protection of the law.

This DOMA decision will also have a huge impact on immigration reform. From Gavin Aronsen at Mother Jones:

The Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is a big victory not only for US citizens in same-sex relationships, but permanent residents who will now be able to petition for permanent residency for their foreign-born, same-sex spouses. The decision achieves most of what an amendment to the immigration reform bill introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sought. The controversial measure, which some lawmakers worried could blow up the bill, stood little chance of making it into the final version of the legislation because of Republican opposition. LGBT proponents of immigration reform thus had been waiting eagerly for the DOMA ruling to come down. Wednesday’s ruling effectively made the amendment a moot point.

Politicians react on Twitter:

Great to hear #DOMA is ruled unconstitutional. Federal recognition of equal rights.

Carl DeMaio ?@carldemaio2m
I’m very pleased with the decision to strike down DOMA. All Americans deserve equal protection under the law.

Barack Obama @BarackObama: Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove

Right wing reaction:

Supreme Court overrules God…. Won’t be long before they outlaw the Bible as hate speech… How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit?

On Proposition 8

The decision means same-sex marriages in California will resume. How the ruling applies elsewhere will require additional litigation.

Amy from the SCOTUS blog with an early analysis:

Here’s a Plain English take on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage: After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case.

What this means in really plain English is the Supreme Court ruling leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional.

From the ruling:

“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.”

Here’s the full text of the ruling on Proposition 8. Eighteen thousand couples were married in California prior to the passing of Proposition 8 in 2008.

Strong Reactions

Today’s an emotional day for a lot of people. Columnist/Blogger Andrew Sullivan, who’s been advocating for this cause for a long time:

I have to say that it is the most liberating feeling to hear your once near-solitary voice blend finally into a communal roar until it isn’t your voice at all any more. It’s the voice of justice. We will pass away (and so many didn’t live to see this day). Justice won’t.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota did not disappoint with her reaction:

“No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted,” Ms. Bachmann said in a statement. “For thousands of years of recorded human history, no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman.” She said the court action “will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”

Local Responses

hillcrestflag

credit: lbgtqnation

Local activists are asking supporters of gay marriage to gather for a rally at the Hillcrest Pride Flag at 5 p.m., at University Avenue and Normal Street. The rally is expected to continue later (7pm) with a celebration at the LGBT Community Center, 3909 Centre St.

In Oceanside, a rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, 510 N. Coast Highway.

Congressman Scott Peters released the following statement:

“It is a significant day for the American ideals of equality and fairness,” Congressman Peters said. “I am proud to stand with the LGBT community as all Americans can celebrate this news.

“With the ruling in the Proposition 8 case, Californians will now be able to marry the person who they love. This is a reaffirmation of the loving commitments that LGBT Californians are already sharing across our state.

“Further, I am glad that the Supreme Court has announced what we already knew – that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It makes clear that all couples and families are to be treated equally under the eyes of the law. It is about time we move beyond division and discrimination and instead work toward ensuring the equal rights guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution.”

Assemblymember Toni Atkins issued a statement, saying, in part:

As one of the 18,000 couples who were able to marry before the passage of Prop 8, I personally know how important both of today’s rulings are.

Certain rights are fundamental and cannot be taken away at the ballot box. This is one of the self-evident truths of the American system. I have always believed in the essential fairness of the American people and in the promise of equality that is embedded in the U.S. Constitution. In poll after poll, a majority of Californians say they support marriage equality. Today’s Supreme Court ruling brings that belief closer to reality. Now we must work to establish equality throughout the nation.

Until then, at least in California, let the weddings begin!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Bearded OBcean June 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

What’s lost in the discussion is i think the Court’s now essentially decided that if the people of a state pass a popular referendum on whatever subject and then that referendum is challenged and struck down at the trial-court level, they have no right to appeal? Is that correct? If the executive decides he/she doesn’t like the referendum enough to choose to appeal it himself, there’s nothing a single member of the public can do to ask an appellate court to reconsider the lower court’s decision — even though many millions of voters voted directly to enact the law? Setting aside Prop 8 for a minute, isn’t that kind of, i don’t know, not good?

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avatar obecean June 26, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Hard to decipher your meaning BOb, but hopefully this helps:

“Many millions” have been wrong before. Judging by what I see and hear, many millions will be wrong again. As I have always said, pound for pound CA has as many backwoodsmen as any other state.

I hear you the referendum process is FUBAR, though for different reasons than you suggest. The CA initiative process was never meant to be dominated by special interests such as religious organizations, bigoted moneyed interests, and their PACS. It was meant as a tool for citizen action! Now because of the advent of paid signature gatherers it no longer is, with some exception.

SCOTUS only decided on the Constitutionality of the particular law, not the initiative process itself. The CA Supreme Court would have the final say on initiative processes.

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