Tags: supreme | court | gay | marriage

Supreme Court Weighs How to Proceed on Gay Marriage

Friday, 30 Nov 2012 03:49 PM

By Newsmax Wires

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
The nine justices of the Supreme Court met in private on Friday to consider whether to enter the legal fray raging over same-sex marriage but made no announcement about any decision they may have reached.

The high court is considering whether to review five separate challenges to a federal law that prevents married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits that heterosexual spouses receive. It is also considering whether to review California's ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.

An announcement about whether the court will review the gay marriage cases could come as early as Monday morning.

The justices' consideration comes three weeks after voters backed same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth. The court was deciding whether they should deal sooner rather than later with the claim that the Constitution gives people the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

Editor's Note: ObamaCare Secrets Revealed

The justices could duck the ultimate question for now and instead focus on a narrower but still important issue: whether Congress can prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving federal benefits otherwise available to married couples.

Any cases probably would be argued in March, with a decision expected by the end of June.

Gay marriage is legal, or will be soon, in nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington — and the District of Columbia. Federal courts in California have struck down the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but that ruling has not taken effect while the issue is being appealed.

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved gay marriage earlier this month.

But 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. North Carolina was the most recent example in May. In Minnesota earlier this month, voters defeated a proposal to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in that state's constitution.

The biggest issue the court could decide to confront comes in the dispute over California's Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters adopted in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. The case could allow the justices to decide whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection means that the right to marriage cannot be limited to heterosexuals.

A decision in favor of gay marriage could set a national rule and overturn every state constitutional provision and law banning same-sex marriages. A ruling that upheld California's ban would be a setback for gay marriage proponents in the nation's largest state, although it would leave open the state-by-state effort to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

In striking down Proposition 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals crafted a narrow ruling that said because gay Californians already had been given the right to marry, the state could not later take it away. The ruling studiously avoided any sweeping pronouncements.

But if the high court ends up reviewing the case, both sides agree that the larger constitutional issue would be on the table, although the justices would not necessarily have to rule on it.

Throughout U.S. history, the court has tried to avoid getting too far ahead of public opinion and mores. The high court waited until 1967 to strike down laws against interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had them.

Some court observers argue that the same caution will prevail in the California case.

"What do they have to gain by hearing this case? Either they impose same sex marriage on the whole country, which would create a political firestorm, or they say there's no right to same-sex marriage, in which case they are going to be reversed in 20 years and be badly remembered. They'll be the villains in the historical narrative," said Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University. Koppelman signed onto a legal brief urging the justices not to hear the California case.

Yet some opponents of gay marriage say the issue is too important, and California is too large a state, for the court to take a pass.

"The question is whether there's a civil right to redefine marriage, as the California Supreme Court did. We don't think there is," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

Regardless of the decision on hearing the California case, there is widespread agreement that the justices will agree to take up a challenge to a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The law was passed in 1996 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton. It defines marriage for all purposes under federal law as between a man and a woman and has been used to justify excluding gay couples from a wide range of benefits that are available to heterosexual couples.

Four federal district courts and two courts of appeal have overturned the provision in various cases on grounds that it unfairly deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits. The justices almost always will hear a case in which a federal law has been struck down.

The Obama administration broke with its predecessors when it announced last year that it no longer would defend the provision. President Barack Obama went further when he endorsed gay marriage in May.

Republicans in the House of Representatives stepped in to take up the defense of the law in court.

Paul Clement, the Washington lawyer representing the House, said the law was intended to make sure that federal benefits would be allocated uniformly, no matter where people live.

"DOMA does not bar or invalidate any state-law marriage, but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriage," Clement said in court papers.

The court has several cases to choose from, including that of 83-year-old Edith Windsor of New York. Windsor faces $363,000 in federal estate taxes after the death of her partner of 44 years in 2009. In two other cases, same-sex couples and surviving spouses of gay marriages in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are seeking a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and private pension survivor payments, access to federal employee health insurance and the right to file a joint federal income tax return.

In the only instance in which a gay couple already is receiving federal benefits, federal court employee Karen Golinski in San Francisco has been allowed, under a court order, to add her wife to her health insurance coverage. That could be reversed if the Supreme Court upholds the marriage law provision.

No matter which case the court chooses, the same issue will be front and center — whether legally married gay Americans can be kept from the range of benefits that are otherwise extended to married couples.

Editor's Note: ObamaCare Secrets Revealed

Justice Elena Kagan strongly suggested in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings that she would not take part in a gay marriage case from Massachusetts because she worked on it while at the Justice Department. The Massachusetts case is one of only two cases that have been decided by a federal appeals court. Windsor's is the other.

Another case, from Arizona, has some similarities to the Defense of Marriage Act appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which invalidated Proposition 8 in California, struck down a state law that said only married state employees were eligible for health benefits and withdrew domestic partner benefits for unmarried state workers. Separately, the Arizona constitution bars same-sex marriage, so gay couples had no way to obtain the state benefits.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Obama Signs Law Aimed at Barring Iran UN Envoy

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 16:37 PM

President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill barring US visas for UN envoys seen as a threat to American secu . . .

Edward Snowden: I'm Not Putin's Patsy

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 15:46 PM

National Security Agency Leaker Edward Snowden says that people shouldn't be surprised that he asked Russian President V . . .

Franklin Graham: Persecution of Christians Occurs Abroad and in US

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 15:16 PM

Christians are under attack not just abroad, but also here in the U.S., says Franklin Graham. . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved