DOMA and Prop 8 at the Supreme Court: SCOTUS Deciding Whether to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court has still not decided whether it will hear two major cases concerning gay marriage. The nine justices met Friday to discuss whether they will hear arguments regarding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, and prevents homosexual couples from receiving marital benefits. California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, is also being considered.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by Bill Clinton. Under DOMA, a homosexual couple cannot receive the federal benefits that heterosexual married couples do. The law also denies the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, as it says that states have no obligation to recognize other states’ gay marriage laws.

Needless to say this legislation has been highly controversial. In October a New York federal appeals court was the second appeals court to declare DOMA unconstitutional after a court in Massachusetts ruled the same in May.

The Obama administration declared last year that they will no longer support DOMA. Obama also became the first president to officially support same-sex marriage. In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America Obama said he was open about the subject.

"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," said Obama. I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." 

Proposition 8 has also come under fire nationally. The ballot proposal passed in California 2008. The legislation amended the California state constitution so that only marriages between heterosexuals can be recognized in the state. This overruled the California Supreme Court decision to grant homosexual couples the right to marry. In February 2012 the 9th circuit court in California took action and declared Prop 8 unconstitutional, indicating that the legislation had no right to take away gay marriage rights that were previous granted in the state.

Gay rights activists are hoping that the Supreme Court in Washington will take the same stance on both DOMA and Prop 8. In regards to DOMA, the high court has the power to deny all states the right to outlaw gay marriage. Such a decision will speak volumes in the gay rights movement. The nine justices are scheduled to meet again this Friday, and it will be their last scheduled meeting until January. This week will be crucial for any further decision-making on gay marriage.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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