The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear cases related to marriage equality. One concerns California's Proposition 8, in which voters banned same-sex marriage. The court will also review a challenge to the the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton.
The terrific folks at SCOTUS Blog are making a deep dive into this. Lyle Denniston liveblogs:
the Court has offered to rule on Prop. 8 and on DOMA Section 3, but it also has given itself a way not to decide either case. That probably depends upon how eager the Justices are to get to the merits; if they are having trouble getting to 5 on the merits, they may just opt out
DOMA Section 3 is the part that says the federal government may only recognize opposite-sex marriages.
Today's announcement makes for a moment of great risk and opportunity for supporters of marriage equality. On the one hand, the court is giving them a chance, but there's no guarantee that the deeply divided court will rule for their cause. We are also at a moment when marriage equality has finally begun to win at the ballot box, which makes proponents of the judicial solution that much more nervous about convincing the court that sexual minorities are politically powerless.
What's not at issue is that DOMA, in particular, causes people in same-sex couples to suffer more than their straight counterparts, even when their states recognize marriage equality. Your letters after the jump.
My late uncle and his partner were the sweetest couple for over 15 years. They had a rich, happy, monogamous relationship. Even though they registered as domestic partners in their SF hometown, when my uncle passed, his spouse lost the following:
1) rent controlled apartment;
2) survivor benefits of social security;
3) survivor benefits of pension;
4) waiving of estate taxes
My uncle's spouse had to relocate out of state to find an affordable place to live on own his limited pension and social security benefits. He had to leave his network of friends, doctors, family and community and religious support systems. He was able to find a gay-friendly city in Portland, Oregon.
I know it happens. In Iowa, neighbors of mine were a lesbian couple. One of them was killed in a car accident, her family came in and took the kids, the furniture, the car, and had power of attorney over the house. Obviously these two should have had a will, but they were young and healthy and didn't think about accidents. So the surviving partner had nothing.