Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage for first time

Reuters, By Terry Baynes, December 7

The Supreme Court stepped into the gay marriage debate for the first time on Friday by agreeing to review two challenges to federal and state laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The high court agreed to review a case against a federal law that denies married same-sex couples the federal benefits heterosexual couples receive. It also took up a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.

Same-sex marriage is a politically charged issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it, while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.

Yet even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

Supreme Court Will Take Up Two Cases on Gay Marriage

New York Times, By Adam Liptak, December 7

Washington, DC — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would enter the national debate over same-sex marriage, agreeing to hear a pair of cases challenging state and federal laws that define marriage to include only unions of a man and a woman.

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The court’s move comes against the backdrop of a rapid shift in public attitudes about same-sex marriage, with recent polls indicating that a majority of Americans support allowing such unions. After the elections last month, the number of states authorizing same-sex marriage increased by half, to nine.

The court’s docket is now crowded with cases about the meaning of equality, with the new cases joining ones on affirmative action in higher education and on the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Decisions in all of the cases are expected by June.

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  • Supreme Court to make procedural ruling on who can argue DOMA case

    Raw Story, By David Ferguson, December 12

    The U.S. Supreme Court has invited a Harvard professor to argue that the nine justices cannot hear one of the two same sex marriage cases it is slated to rule on in spring of 2013. The Associated Press reported that constitutional law professor Vicki C. Jackson has been asked to testify in the hearings in March, not as to whether or not same sex marriages should be legal, but rather to argue that the court should not even consider ruling in the case involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    Raw Story spoke with John Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, the LGBT legal advocacy group, who said that the Court is asking two questions regarding their power to hear the case.

    “One is ‘Does the Department of Justice have the ability to bring the case before them?’” because its position prevailed in United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case that is being brought before the court.

    The other question, said Davidson, is whether or not a Republican-led House of Representatives group should be allowed to defend the Act. The Bipartisan Legislative Action Group (BLAG) is a five-member panel made up of Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

    This is a rare case, said Davidson, “in that a plaintiff sued the U.S. government and the government said, ‘We agree with the plaintiff. We agree with the person suing. This law that was passed by Congress and signed by the president, we now believe is unconstitutional, so we’re not going to defend it anymore.’ That has happened several dozen times in history in the United States, but it’s an unusual circumstance.”

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