Supreme Court Advances Gay Rights Today

Posted By Levi

June 26th, 2013 8:39pm

Category: Civil Liberties

gay pride

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued two important decisions relating to gay rights.

But first, let’s make this clear. The decisions did not legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. That was not the question in either of the two cases that the Court was asked to deal with. The Court was not asked to deal with whether or not the Constitution allows gay marriages.

However, some commentators believe that the decisions today lay the framework for the eventual legalization of same-sex marriages throughout the country.

As of June 2013, thirteen states recognized gay marriages. It remains illegal in the other states.

The first Supreme Court decision today dealt with DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. The law defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It did not ban same-sex marriage but was seen by gays and lesbians as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

What the law did was to ban same-sex couples from enjoying the many benefits that other couples enjoy under federal laws. Same sex couples for example could not file joint returns which could, in some cases, saved them lots of taxes.

The Court struck down DOMA saying the law violated the Constitution by discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. According to the Court

“No legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

This is a huge win for President Obama whose administration decided not to defend DOMA in court.

Proposition 8
In 2008, voters in California passed a referendum called Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages in the state. But, not long after that, a lower federal court declared Proposition 8 illegal.  Backers of Proposition 8 then took the case to the US Supreme Court asking it to overrule the lower court. However, today the Supreme Court dismissed the case. As a result, the lower court ruling stands.

This means that gay marriages may resume in California.

Interestingly, the DOMA decision will have an impact on the current immigration reform bill in Congress. President Obama and the Democrats want gays and lesbians to be able to file for their partners who are living abroad. Republicans are vehemently opposed to this.

Because of DOMA, gay Americans who married to foreigners abroad are not able to bring their partners to the United States. Now, with DOMA out of the way, gays and lesbians will now be able to file for green cards for their loved ones and a big obstacle to the immigration bill has been removed.

While DOMA was in effect, gay Americans legally married to a foreign national had no way to sponsor them for a spouse visa to live in the United States because the federal government refused to recognize their union. The result was that many couples were forced to either live in exile abroad or risk living illegally in the United States under threat of deportation. Among those affected were Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist behind the recent NSA story, who lives in Brazil with his husband, and former Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe, who recently testified before a Senate committee about his Panamanian fiancé’s difficulty securing a visa.”

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