U.S. Supreme Court Rulings for Marriage Equality


June 26, 2013

Contact: Bonnie Sugiyama, Director
Phone: 408-924-6158
Email: bonnie.sugiyama@sjsu.edu

Prop 8 and Section 3 of DOMA Overturned, Same-sex Marriage Still Not Legal in 37 States

(San José, CA) Today was a monumental day in the fight for equity of the LGBTQ community. There were two major decisions announced by the United States Supreme Court in favor of the LGBTQ community: the first, was regarding the Defense of Marriage Act; and the second, was on the State of California’s Proposition 8.

The Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

The United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of federal programs and benefits such as Social Security and immigration.

The federal government will now recognize same-sex marriages from states where it is legal for same-sex marriages to take place. The ruling keeps intact the sovereignty of states to decide whether or not to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, per Section 2 of DOMA.

Section 2. Powers Reserved to the States

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

The right to marry still lies with each individual state, leaving 12 states (California will be the 13th) where same-sex couples can get married and 37 where they cannot. There are many questions left to be answered in the future in regard to how this will be played out in practice with less than one third of the nation’s states recognizing same-sex marriage. One such issue that is being debated currently in Congress is LGBT immigration and bi-national couples. It is unknown at this time how the decision will affect those living in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

The Ruling on Proposition 8

The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the supporters of Proposition 8 lacked legal standing to appeal Judge Walker’s decision striking down the initiative. The Court ruled that because the Governor and Attorney General of California, the officials responsible for defending state laws in court, decided not to appeal Judge Walker’s decision, the supporters of Proposition 8 could not appeal that decision on their own because they could not show that allowing same-sex couples to marry would personally affect them in any way.

The next step of this process will take place with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. They will need to formally dismiss the supporter’s appeal, ruled invalid by the Supreme Court, of the Proposition 8 decision by Judge Walker, effectively clearing the path for the State of California to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples again. The timeline for this process is still to be determined.

Resources and References

By Christopher Stoll, Esq., NCLR Senior Staff Attorney