U.S. Supreme Court to hear challenges to Defense of Marriage Act, California’s Prop 8
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear a challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law targeting same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal law.
Lower federal courts have previously found DOMA unconstitutional. The high court will also hear a challenge in the case of California’s Proposition 8. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has previously ruled that Prop. 8, which denies same-sex couples the freedom to marry, is unconstitutional.
The news was met with applause by gay and lesbian civil-rights groups.
“The nation’s high court has agreed to consider one of the most defining civil rights issues of our time. Marriage equality touches our community’s hearts and affects our wallets, and the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases present the Supreme Court with a monumental opportunity to affirm our Constitution’s promises of liberty, equality and human dignity,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“We simply want to be treated fairly, and to be able to provide for and protect our families, just as everyone else does. Yet DOMA makes this impossible by denying legally married same-sex couples vital federal protections available to every other married couple in this country. This includes Social Security, health insurance, retirement savings and veterans’ benefits. Couples who have made a lifelong commitment to each other through marriage are being treated as strangers in the eyes of their own federal government. This is unconscionable, and as lower courts have deemed, unconstitutional,” Carey said.
“We are heartened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to hear these cases and we are hopeful that Section 3 of DOMA will soon be history,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini. “Marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts are still not recognized by the federal government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. In addition to being immoral, this inequality means that married same-sex couples do not have access to many of the safety nets afforded other married couples: social security survivor benefits; Medicaid long-term care benefits; spousal veteran benefits; or rights of inheritance. The continued enforcement of DOMA has created an indefensible two-tiered system of treatment for married couples based solely on the gender of the spouses.
“Multiple court rulings, legislative votes, elections, and public opinion polls have shown that the public embraces marriage equality. Indeed, for the first time ever, on November 6, voters in three states elected to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples, and voters in a fourth state rejected a mean-spirited constitutional amendment that would have banned legal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples,” Suffredini said.