Another Big Day for Same-Sex Marriage as the Supreme Court Hears Arguments on DOMA

Categories: Gay Marriage

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Following yesterday's hearing on California's Proposition 8 (whose decision will likely fall into the hands of swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy), another case is coming through the Supreme Court this morning. The justices are hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996.

The federal law gives an explicitly heterosexual definition of marriage, and excludes married same-sex couples from the benefits allotted to spouses in opposite-sex marriages. This is the part of the law that is being challenged today. If the court rules that these couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as their opposite-sex counterparts, they would start receiving benefits in the places that allow same-sex marriage (i.e. Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia). The roughly 18,000 couples in California who married before same-sex marriage was overturned there in 2008 would also be affected. Such a decision, however, would not force states that don't already recognize same-sex marriage to do so.

The plaintiff in today's case is 83-year-old New Yorker Edith Windsor. After living with her partner, Thea Spyer, for over 40 years, and after being legally married in Toronto in 2007, Windsor was forced to pay over $363,000 in estate taxes after Spyer died in 2009, because the federal government did not recognize their marriage. "If Thea was Theo," she told NPR last week, "I would not have had to pay" the taxes. "It's heartbreaking," she continued. "It's just a terrible injustice, and I don't expect that from my country. I think it's a mistake that has to get corrected."

Arguments began at approximately 10:10 a.m. By 10:51, according to SCOTUSblog, there was not yet a clear indication of whether a majority believes the court has the power to decide the case. Stay tuned for updates as we hear reports from inside the court.

Update 1:50pm
Transcript is out.

Update, 12:21 p.m.
The New York Times reports from inside the court that five of the justices expressed skepticism of the ban on federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. According to The Times's Peter Baker, during the oral argument Justice Kennedy said, "The question is whether or not the federal government under a federalism system has the authority to regulate marriage." Audio of the arguments is expected to be released around 2 p.m.

Update, 12:04 p.m.
More from SCOTUSblog, telling us, "Final update: #scotus 80% likely to strike down #doma. J Kennedy suggests it violates states' rights; 4 other Justices see as gay rights."

Update 11:31 a.m.
SCOTUSblog tweets, "J Kennedy asks two questions doubting #doma validity but nothing decisive and Chief Justice and Kagan have yet to speak."


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3 comments
farahp
farahp

The issue of same sex marriage has been an issue for decades. Is this really an issue when it comes down to US as a union?  I believe in the separation of church and state. If there is an issue to have, it would be a religious one. Not everyone disagrees with this lifestyle. What makes their relationship any difference from a hetero sexual one? Just their genitals? Basic heterosexual marriages divorces have increased. Yet, you don’t see groups of religious people fighting divorce. Furthermore, how can you legalize same sex marriages in some states and not truly recognize their union in every aspect. No health coverage? Um, I’m sorry health coverage is hard enough to receive any way and now, they have decided to take away health care and charge taxes on people who decide to be involved in a homosexual relationship? Their relationship is just as good as any relationship standing be that, as a friendship or a heterosexual one. If they legalized it then they should still have every other right given to those people married in a heterosexual relationship.

Let us not get deeply involved in the lack of rights they may or may not have because then we will find ourselves raising other issues that involve discrimination and prejudices, which can be dated back to civil rights. Let us not focus or waste time or minimal issues such as this one, while we should be focused on issues that really affect all of us as a people. Why are they taxing same sex marriages? Taking 6 figures from a woman in her 80’s for being in a same sex marriage. Really??? I mean why haven’t we taken large sum of taxes from the ones who make us poor. The rich ceo’s taken chances with peoples hard earned money. If they should decide to make this a bigger issue then it already is then it would be a waste of time. Why gives us rights but then take them away?

farahp
farahp

The issue of same sex marriage has been an issue for decades. Is this really an issue when it comes down to US as a union?  I believe in the separation of church and state. If there is an issue to have, it would be a religious one. Not everyone disagrees with this lifestyle. What makes their relationship any difference from a hetero sexual one? Just their genitals? Basic heterosexual marriages divorces have increased. Yet, you don’t see groups of religious people fighting divorce. Furthermore, how can you legalize same sex marriages in some states and not truly recognize their union in every aspect. No health coverage? Um, I’m sorry health coverage is hard enough to receive any way and now, they have decided to take away health care and charge taxes on people who decide to be involved in a homosexual relationship? Their relationship is just as good as any relationship standing be that, as a friendship or a heterosexual one. If they legalized it then they should still have every other right given to those people married in a heterosexual relationship.

Let us not get deeply involved in the lack of rights they may or may not have because then we will find ourselves raising other issues that involve discrimination and prejudices, which can be dated back to civil rights. Let us not focus or waste time or minimal issues such as this one, while we should be focused on issues that really affect all of us as a people. Why are they taxing same sex marriages? Taking 6 figures from a woman in her 80’s for being in a same sex marriage. Really??? I mean why haven’t we taken large sum of taxes from the ones who make us poor. The rich ceo’s taken chances with peoples hard earned money. If they should decide to make this a bigger issue then it already is then it would be a waste of time. Why gives us rights but then take them away?

redhandnyc
redhandnyc

The Defense of Marriage Act that President Clinton signed into law in 1996 (reference mark: there was an election coming up in two months) defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, while at the same time it recognized the rights of the states to determine what is and isn't a marriage. Confusing? Yeah it made my head spin a little bit too. Especially the part where the president said "Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind" and followed it later in his statement with "I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages". What the...?

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/scotts/ftp/wpaf2mc/clinton.html

Had this law been written simply to say that the federal government recognizes all marriages/civil unions deemed legal in any of the states and had it replaced the  gender specific terms"husband" and "wife" with the more inclusive word "spouse" for purposes of federal law, then this wouldn't even be an issue today. All of this time and energy could be used to address actual problems within and threats to our society rather than worrying about the sexuality of two people who love and want to commit themselves to one another.

It has been 198 days since four Americans were murdered by terrorists on September 11th. AGAIN! Still no one has been been held accountable for this. No one fired, no one arrested, no one "droned".

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