WASHINGTON D.C.- Today will mark a tremendous milestone in the quest for civil rights for LGBTQ Americans as the highest court in the land will officially begin to hear opening statements regarding the voter-approved Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex marriage in California in 2008, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, a law passed by Congress which defines federal recognition of marriage to strictly one man and one woman, as well as prohibiting federal benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear opening arguments both for and against these laws and weigh them against the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees “equal protection under the law.” Regardless of how the justice’s rule, their verdicts are set to make history.
During the ground-breaking presidential election of 2008 when American’s elected their first-ever African-American Commander in Chief, “progressive, trend-setting” California took a giant step backward when voters in the Golden State passed Proposition 8, which eliminated the civil right of marriage for LGBTQ couples. Although the loss at the voting booth was no doubt a bitter, painful pill to swallow for LGBTQ Californian’s, it initiated the beginning of what would become a long and drawn out battle in the judicial system. After the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 8 the following year, United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the proposition in the summer of 2010, declaring Proposition 8 infringed upon the U.S Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. The ruling was appealed and now sits before the U.S. Supreme Court in what is sure to be a history-making trial. The fact of the matter remains: do California voters have the constitutional right to eliminate an existing civil right from a protected minority group within the United States?
DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) is also set to be reviewed by the high court. The justices will have to determine if the federal government can continue to legally deny rights and benefits to same-sex spouses of federal employees who are currently legally married in states that allow gay marriage. DOMA is also going to be pitted against the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Considering the Supreme Court fields a slight conservative majority (5 conservative to 4 liberal justices) the key for the anti-Prop 8/DOMA side will be to convince at least one right wing judge to cross over to the left. The task, however, may not be too difficult. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act after conservative Chief Justice John Roberts (a George W. Bush appointee) sided with the court’s liberal wing and confirmed the healthcare law did in fact meet constitutional requirements. Can the anti-prop 8/DOMA side trigger the same outcome here? We’ll know soon enough. A final, landmark ruling is expected this June 2013.
CREDIT: Photos of the Supreme Court justices and Chief Justice John Roberts are courtesy of the U.S Supreme Court website. Photo of the Prop 8 rally in California is courtesy of the LatinoEqualityAlliance.com.