No Supreme Court Decision on Prop. 8 or DOMA Today; Next Possibility is Monday
Update: The U.S. Supreme Court released three decisions today, none of which was one of the closely watched cases on same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action in school admissions.
The court now has 11 cases still remaining.
There are only two scheduled decision-release days left, Monday and Thursday — though it’s possible the court will go even beyond that date in coming to grips with the potential landmark cases remaining.
While you’re waiting … and waiting and waiting …. here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the Prop. 8 case and then some. The Reader’s Digest version:
Prop. 8 is California’s same-sex marriage ban that was struck down on narrow grounds by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Should SCOTUS uphold that decision, same-sex marriages could begin again in California in mid-to-late July, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office. (San Francisco was an intervenor in the case on the plaintiff’s side.) If the court uses the case to issue a more sweeping ruling that all same-sex marriage bans are illegal, that would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country.
Legal analyst Vikram Amar, however, told KQED’s Scott Shafer last week that a broad decision declaring a fundamental nationwide right to same-sex marriage is highly unlikely. “It’s very rare for the court to invalidate the laws of two-thirds or three-quarters of the states,” Amar said. He noted that when bans on interracial marriage were struck down in 1967, only 16 states had such laws — compared with 35 that now ban gay marriage.
But it should also be noted that polls have shown a remarkable swing in favor of same-sex marriage since voters approved Prop. 8 in 2008. So, even in a worst-case scenario for those who support same-sex marriage — that California’s ban is upheld — a ballot initiative in 2014 could well overturn the law. On Wednesday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the Senate may act to place a repeal of Prop. 8 on the ballot should same-sex marriages remain illegal in the state. Such a measure would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for it to be placed before voters. LGBT advocates could also place a measure on the ballot.
DOMA is a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between only a man and a woman. It prevents those who are in same-sex marriages from receiving a host of federal benefits, such as the ability to file a joint tax return. In the case before the court, a widow was forced to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes after her female spouse died, a liability she would not have incurred if she’d been married to a man. A federal appeals court ruled that provision of DOMA was unconstitutional. Another provision, requiring states to recognize only opposite-sex marriages performed in other states, is not at issue here.