The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear two critical cases involving gay marriage. The first involved a challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Passed in 1996, DOMA denies federal recognition of gay couples married in states legalizing gay marriage. As a result of DOMA, Congress has thus far been able to prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving the same federal benefits heterosexual married couples receive – a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Appeals Courts in both Massachusetts and New York have struck down the law as unconstitutional.
The second case involves a challenge to California’s notorious 2008 Proposition 8 law, which was passed after that state’s Supreme Court ruled homosexual couples defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Although it passed as a ballot measure, the constitutional amendment was struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Gay marriage is legal, or will be soon, in: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington. Although national support for gay marriage has steadily risen over the years, thirty-one states have amended their state’s constitution to ban gay marriage.
The rights of millions of Americans are at stake in this case. A broadly stated decision in favor of gay marriage could overturn every state constitutional provision and law banning same-sex marriages. A ruling in support of Proposition 8 and/or DOMA, will be seen as a victory for states’ rights. However the Court rules, this promises to be the most significant ruling the Court has had since it upheld the Affordable Care Act earlier this year.