The Supreme Court announced today that two Same Sex Marriage cases have been added to their docket. With this announcement, the court positions itself to once again join the conversation on Gay Marriage. The two cases which will be heard, one from California and the other from New York are expected to have decisions by June.
The California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144 is in part focused on the constitutionality of Same Sex Marriage. The other components are matters that would be specific to California. No stranger to Supreme Court review of this subject, California Same Sex Marriage laws have been a part of America’s national conversation since the passage of Proposition 8. Currently, the Hollingsworth v. Perry case argues that the federal Constitution was violated by California voters when they voted to override a state Supreme Court decision which previously banned Same Sex Marriage in California.
The state of New York might be considered the birth place of the fight for gay rights. In 1969 the Stonewall riots were sparked by police raids of gay establishments igniting violent the protests from members of the gay community. The current New York case, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 concerns survivor rights with regard to taxation.
Edith Windsor inherited property from her deceased spouse Thea Clara Spyer in 2009 after two years of marriage. Windsor subsequently received at tax bill for $360,000 as the Internal Revenue Service does not recognize Windsor as a surviving spouse. With opposite sex couple such an inheritance tax would not have been imposed.
Although not a matter before the Supreme Court, the state of Utah added commentary to the conversation in court today as well. A three person panel of judges with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found themselves divided. The area of disagreement was with regard to the impact of last year’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act. Are the due process rights of gay couples being violated due to the denial of legal recognition by the federal government? This question is where opinions in and out of court vary with regard to the Utah case.
The Same sex Marriage conversation even drew attention at the Civil Rights Summit in Austin, Texas this week. The summit held at the LBJ Presidential library, was put on to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As session was conducted Tuesday where two attorneys discussed whether gay marriage is a civil right? Further should the fight for marriage equality and gay rights be included in the initiatives of the new civil rights movement in America.
America’s Same Sex marriage conversation is taking place from coast to coast. Our government and its courts appear to very divided on the subject of marriage equality. Simultaneously, polling information indicates a rapid change in public opinion regarding same sex marriages reflecting that a majority of Americans now approve of same sex marriage. The findings of these polls may give light to the potential outcome on this matter.
Historically the Supreme Court has been viewed to have given at times surprising rulings that mirror shifts in public opinion. For now a robust and sometimes heated conversation regarding marriage equality wages on. No matter the opinion, Americans have very strong feelings for and against.
Should the decisions on Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor come from the Supreme Court as expected in June it will establish a new benchmark if not landmark time in the conversation. With the results of recent elections creating additional states where same sex marriage laws have passed many will be watching and waiting with baited breath. The conversation on marriage equality in America is a heated and interesting one with no definitive end in sight.
By T. Lawson