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Mortal Blows for DOMA Ahead? U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Two Marriage Equality Cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it has decided to grant review in Hollingsworth v. Perry, California’s Proposition 8 case. The amendment barring same-sex couples the right to marry was declared unconstitutional by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in 2010. That was subsequently upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Federation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the Prop 8 case, will submit arguments by April 2013, with a decision by SCOTUS is expected by June of next year.

“This case is about the fundamental constitutional right of all Americans to marry the person they love. The plaintiffs we represent are two loving couples who, like millions of other gay and lesbian Americans, are being denied the right to marry and the right to be treated with equal dignity and respect under the law,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Theodore B. Olson. “The Supreme Court’s decision to grant review in this case illustrates the national significance of marriage equality, and brings us closer to the day when every American will be able to equally enjoy the fundamental freedom to marry.”

“Fourteen times the Supreme Court has stated that the freedom to marry is one of the most fundamental rights—if not the most fundamental right—of all Americans,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies. “As we have said from the very beginning of this case, the denial of that fundamental right seriously harms gay and lesbian Americans and the children they are raising. It serves no legitimate state interest. We are ready to defend our victories before the Supreme Court, where we will urge the Justices to reaffirm our Constitution’s central promises of liberty, equality, and human dignity.”

Also, SCOTUS will also hear one challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Windsor v. United States. DOMA prevents same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits such as Social Security spousal benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees. ACLU:

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer shared their lives together as a couple in New York City for 44 years. They got engaged in 1967, a couple of years after becoming a couple, and were finally married in Canada in May 2007. Two years later, Thea passed away, after living for decades with multiple sclerosis, which led to progressive paralysis.

When Thea died, the federal government refused to recognize their marriage and taxed Edie’s inheritance from Thea as though they were strangers. Under federal tax law, a spouse who dies can leave her assets, including the family home, to the other spouse without incurring estate taxes.

See the Blend post on the Windsor case here. Plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case are Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. [cont’d.]

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding