Written by Matthew Harper. Media by Bobby Williams.
Although rulings won’t come down for a while, two major cases concerning gay rights have finally made their way to the Supreme Court. The two cases involve the supposed “Defense of Marriage Act” and the constitutionality of California’s “Proposition 8,” respectively.
The Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in September of 1996 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, restricts federal benefits to married same-sex couples. The act also defined marriage as between a man and a woman, which caused quite a stir then, but the tension has only built since. According to Fox News, five judges, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, began to question the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, especially the restriction of federal benefits to homosexuals.
Kennedy pointed out that the law seems to contradict the power that individual states, such as the nine that have legalized gay marriage thus far, have on deciding these matters for themselves. The constitutionality of that part of the law is being called into question, and although a ruling isn’t expected until around June, it seems likely at this point that the Court will decide against those federal benefit restrictions. CNN cites Chief Justice John Roberts, though, as pointing out the opposite side of the coin. If that specific part of the Defense of Marriage Act is struck down and a law providing those federal benefits to same-sex couples was passed, would that not then be stepping on the powers of states that have voted against gay marriage?
The Proposition 8 case isn’t as specific. In fact, this particular issue currently being mulled over by the Supreme Court is more focused on whether the Constitution requires people to be allowed to marry whom they choose. Proposition 8, then, would just be one of the major dominoes to fall if the Court decides that, yes, the Constitution does provide people freedom in who they marry. According to Fox News, a decision like that would “invalidate every other restriction on gay marriage in the country.” They also point out, however, that several judges, including some of the liberal ones in support of gay marriage, don’t think that’s the case at all. Due to the fact that the case has been brought to them as a challenge to Proposition 8, not the entire government’s stance on the issue, these judges say that if they decide against Proposition 8, only California’s gay marriage law would be overturned.
The cases are set to be decided on with verdicts announced by June, so it will be a while before the public knows which way the justices of the Supreme Court are leaning. Until then, marriage equality is sure to be a hot topic among most Americans. Recent polls show that more Americans than ever are open to gay marriage, including a Fox News poll that showed 49 percent supporting gay marriage with 46 percent opposing, so cases like these two most likely won’t be the last. One thing’s for sure; you can expect to see headlines about these cases every day for the next few months.