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The Supreme Court's Big Gay-Marriage Day, Explained

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, Civil Rights, Human Rights, LGBT, Law, media, military, politics, propaganda, SupremeCourt )

- 1966 days ago -
Five cases under consideration challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that prevents same-sex couples married under state law from receiving the same federal recognition as heterosexual married couples

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Kit B (276)
Friday November 30, 2012, 5:18 am
Photo Credit: davidcstone/Flickr )

On Friday, the Supreme Court will convene privately to make a highly anticipated decision: Will it weigh in on gay marriage? There are currently seven cases in front of the court, covering issues from whether married gay veterans can be buried together in a military cemetery to whether same-sex couples can once again marry in California. The court can decide to hear all, some, or none of the cases. And merely deciding to take a case or not will have broad implications for the future of gay marriage in the United States.

Which cases are involved?

* Hollingsworth v. Perry, a challenge to Califorinia's Proposition 8, is the only case facing the high court that deals specifically with the right of same-sex couples to marry. After the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2008, anti-gay-marriage activists passed an amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal appeals court then declared the proposition unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

* Diaz v. Brewer deals specifically with health insurance benefits for gay couples in Arizona who are state employees. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Arizona. Right now, there is a preliminary injunction that allows same-sex couples to receive domestic-partner health insurance coverage.

Five cases under consideration challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that prevents same-sex couples married under state law from receiving the same federal recognition as heterosexual married couples:

* Gill v. Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the US House of Representatives and Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services involve challenges to DOMA in Massachusetts. The complaints deal with federal benefits denied to gay married couples, like the right to file joint income taxes.

* Windsor v. United States concerns a challenge to DOMA in New York. In this case, that the plaintiff was not able to claim an estate tax marital deduction after her spouse's death.

* Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management is a California case involving a married federal court employee who was unable to extend health benefits to her same-sex spouse.

* Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management is a case with a plaintiff challenging DOMA in Connecticut, as a purported violation of the 5th Amendment.

What happens if the Supreme Court doesn't accept any of the cases?

Many gay-marriage advocates don't want the Supreme Court to take up the Proposition 8 case. If the court lets the lower-court decision stand, same-sex couples can again get married in California after a four-year delay. The same holds true for the Diaz case, which if left alone, would allow state employees to continue to receive domestic-partner health insurance coverage for the time being.

According to Jon Davidson, the legal director for Lambda Legal, if the Supreme Court doesn't hear any of the DOMA cases, rulings from the First and Second Circuits saying that a section of DOMA is unconstitutional will stand. Same-sex couples married in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont will be recognized as married when it comes to federal benefits and rights. (This won't change the fact that same-sex couples in Rhode Island can't marry, and couples in Maine can't marry until January.)

Is the Supreme Court about to legalize gay marriage in the United States?

Not exactly. The DOMA cases affect couples who are already married under state law. If DOMA is found to be unconstitutional, same-sex married couples across the United States will receive the same treatment as hetero married couples under federal law. But new couples can't get married in states where same-sex unions are not legal. The Diaz case only deals with health benefits for domestic partners employed by the government. In the Proposition 8 case, if the Supreme Court takes it on and finds the amendment unconstitutional, there is a chance the reasoning could be used by courts in other states to legalize gay marriage.

When will the Supreme Court make a decision on which, if any, cases it will hear?

The Supreme Court will most likely announce which cases it's going to take up on Monday, but we could hear as early as Friday. There is also a chance that the Supreme Court could delay making a decision, which is what happened on November 20.

What do activists have to say?

Pro-gay-marriage: Brian Moulton, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign, says: "Regardless of what the Court may do in the next few days, the clear trajectory of the courts, state legislatures, and the country is toward full equality."

Anti-gay-marriage: Greg Quinlan, director of government affairs for the New Jersey Family Policy Council, a traditional-values group, told the Washington Times that when it comes to California, it "would be a blow to our democracy to overturn the vote of the people…Then you start to wonder, 'Does my vote count at all?'"

Where is gay marriage legal right now? ( See map at Visit Site)

Still confused?

Check out this handy table for what we could know when the Supreme Court announces what, if any cases it will consider. (See chart at Visit Site)

Dana Liebelson is a writing fellow in Mother Jones' Washington bureau | Mother Jones Magazine |

pam w (139)
Friday November 30, 2012, 12:18 pm
Greg Quintan's point is ridiculous....NOWHERE in the Constitution does it say popular vote can confirm or deny basic human rights.

This is the basis of rulings against anti-miscegination laws, votes for women, and WILL be the basis of equality in marriage.

As Brian Moulton says....even if the SCOTUS DOES wimp out and put off this's very clear that it WILL happen. Bigots and fundamentalists have been holding us all hostage to their narrow view of "morality" for far too long and the public is demanding change!.

Let's hope it happens soon--I have a LOT of joyous weddings to attend!

Yvonne White (229)
Friday November 30, 2012, 2:48 pm
A right afforded to some MUST be afforded to ALL - discrimination is discrimination. PERIOD! And no, that does not mean polygamy & animal marriages will be allowed - totally different, totally illegal in ALL states and just another bull$hit argument against allowing gay marriage..

S G (29)
Friday November 30, 2012, 6:04 pm
noted, thanks

TomCat S (129)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 6:47 am
I look forward, with interest, to seeing which, if any they choose.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 9:55 am
Kit, I can't thank you enough for cutting & pasting the way you do. Mother Jones is one of the least eye friendly reads there is.
I hope SCOTUS come out on the side of gays. I love my gay friends & neighbors.

Yvonne White (229)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 2:32 pm
Some groups in IL. are trying to ban gay marriage - especially Church groups saying they should be allowed because it's a "spiritual" right not a Civil right. But that's ridiculous, because the government is Already involved in Marriage Legality & the rights & "perks" given to Married Couples via shared Insurance, Tax Codes, & Inheritance procedures! So Marriage MUST be a CIVIL Right or NONE of those things would matter at all, right?!;)

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 4:57 pm
Yvonne is absolutely right--it's always been about the money. Companies don't want to pay for "additional" spouses. I've signed everything that's come my way to dump DOMA for quite awhile now. This has been a movement that's rolled downhill like a snowball, gathering more people and moving ever faster. Soon we'll be hearing a big "plop" as it lands on those who remain ignorant and hateful.

Kit B (276)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 8:11 pm

Even this Supreme Court can not turn away at least one of these cases. I do believe that DOMA is in it's essence unconstitutional.

Diane O (194)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 3:47 am
Scientists estimate that 5% of the global population has a homosexual orientation. Only 5%....and the liberals believe that changing the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman because of a very small percentage of gays and lesbians is the right thing to do.

I remember when President Obama, soon after his 2009 inauguration boldly stood before the American people and stated, "I believe marriage is between one man and one woman." Anyone else remember Obama saying this to the entire country?

Another liberal case of "selective memory."

Kit B (276)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 7:43 am

For you, Diane in your own selective choice of constant hate. For most that is awareness of the right thing to do, to recognize that any one has a right to love who they love, and in so doing has the same rights of any other partner ship.

This definition of marriage has no real historical context, even the bible fails to recognize that a woman has free and equal rights to any man, or that marriage is between one man and one woman. Come on in to the 21st century, leave your hate and bigotry behind, you might find it's not really all that bad to just accept people for who they are.

Diane O (194)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 8:28 am
Kit, I don't hate anyone. There's no point in hating people. But, let's get down to the facts, shall we? How many states have passed same sex marriage? 5? Only 5? Well, why is that? According to how you believe there must be 45 states full of haters.

Personally, I don't care hat people do in their private lives. That never interests me. I have never had an issue with gays and lesbians. Never will. I do, however, believe marriage is between one man and one woman. You know....the "Adam and Eve" story. I have no problem with the life long union of same sex couples. I believe they have a right to live their lives the way they want to live them.

You didn't address what Obama said to our country, Kit. He said, I believe marriage is between one man and one woman." Why didn't you address that, Kit? Having problems with it? Well, you certainly cannot deny that he said it because it is "out there."

Look at the truth. The large majority of states have denied recognizing same sex marriage. Ask yourself why that is. This isn't about me. It's about 45 states in YOUR country.

Kit B (276)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 10:17 am

Yes, it is my country, and it is gradually changing, though for fair and equal rights to be obtained by each citizen it must be under federal and not state law.

I have no problem with presidents - any of them, growing and learning while in office, in only proves they are human and have learned to accept and recognize changes in the demographics of this country. One who is too inflexible to change is far too inflexible to attempt to guide or lead a multicultural and diverse nation.

Marriage is just one of many things that will have new definitions in this country. Equal rights has never interfered with our rights under the Constitution. To the contrary this is what the constitution was designed for growth and awareness of flaws or changes within society. Every thing changes, or remains stagnant and dies.

Diane O (194)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 11:12 am
And, again, Kit, you have bypassed addressing my question of how you feel about Obama standing before the American people and stating, "I believe marriage is between one man and one woman." That must be difficult for you to respond to. And, "on the job" training for a sitting President is very bad for the country as we have witnessed over the past four years. We've got another four years to continue to shut Obama's socialist ideas down. I'm looking forward to the election in 2014.

Our country is on the wrong track due to political correctness which was started by the University of Wisconsin in the 80's when Shalala introduced "speech code." That "speech code" got 13 innocent Americans murdered at Fort Hood.

I do embrace change in my life but when it comes down to a person's core beliefs about what is right and wrong, certain change cannot be embraced just so that we can be a politically correct country.

It is my opinion that it is wrong to change the sanctity of marriage for a few Americans. As you can see from the small number of states that will allow same sex marriage in their states, the Christian beliefs are alive and well and remain in the majority.

We put up a Christmas tree in our office again this year and our clients love it. No "holiday bush" no political correctness because it is, indeed, a Christmas tree. I believe our country needs to hold on to its core values and the socialist democrats can continue to kick their feet. Some things will never change in our country and that is a good thing.

Kit B (276)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 12:05 pm

No, Diane I answered your question very directly. My answer is not obtuse nor difficult to comprehend. I do believe that at one point he (Obama) may have believed that but as I said, has grown beyond that narrow thinking. Good for him. That is a stable influence on this country to have a man or woman wise enough to adapt to changes. Because you don't like my answers doesn't mean I do not answer. I have answered you many times. To date you do not respond to questions by myself or others. I will use the example of Thomas P - who very politely asked you if you could say one good thing about the president. That's a "soft ball" question that you totally avoided.

So you think it's wrong. That matters very little, once people thought that it was wrong for races to intermarry and followed through with jail sentences. In the vastness of time and space the realities of our world, your opinion is just that and nothing more, your opinion or your judgement of others. I don't pretend my opinion is any thing more than my personal view and as such as no more validity than any other opinion. put up a Christmas tree? That is relevant to what? There is NO war on any thing Christian nor on any holiday. Do try to deal with real issues. I think you do not understand what Politically Correct means and now believe the nonsense hype.

Diane, to be Politically Correct is nothing more or less than being polite, showing a decent amount of respect for others as to not offend or directly cause harm. Our country has many core values one was once slavery, so let's get past our egos and realize that values are indeed not shared but are personal.

Lloyd H (46)
Monday December 3, 2012, 6:35 am
Diane O., you are once again showing your intentional ignorance of your Chosen religion. Adam and Eve were never married and one might add that neither were any of their incestuous inbreeding children until the creation of a Priesthood. You show the same ignorance of America and American history with you "on the job training" stupidity. NO President of the United States of America is "trained" before taking office for the first time. Wake up, prior 'business' experience is of minimal use, A Nation Is Not A Business, the only goal for a Business is profit, the only goal for a Government is the well being of its citizens. Like wise Military service is dedicated to the successful completion of the orders of the Civilian government. As for your having no problem with LGBT persons that is pure BS considering that you do not consider them to be deserving of full and equal civil and human rights.
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