The United States Supreme Court announced this afternoon that it has agreed to hear two cases that will determine the destiny of same-sex marriage across America.
After a week of waiting on a decision from the court, the nine justices on the bench accepted California’s Proposition 8 case, as well as a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
According to reports, the court will decide whether states must permit homosexuals to “marry,” and when states do so, whether the federal government can disagree and choose to limit its recognition of marriage to solely the joining together of a husband and wife.
The matter surrounding Proposition 8, which will now be heard by the court, hails back to 2008, when voters in California were presented with a ballot initiative asking if residents wished to enshrine marriage in the state as being between a man and woman. The measure, which sought to add an amendment to the state Constitution to protect the Biblical definition of marriage from infringement, passed by five percentage points.
In 2010, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8 in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, opining that the law violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. Walker placed a stay on the law, which the Ninth Circuit later upheld. In February of this year, in a 2 to 1 decision, the Ninth Circuit then agreed with Walker after hearing the case in full, resulting in a timely appeal to the nation’s highest court.
The Defense of Marriage Act, the second matter to be decided by the court next year, was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton in September 1996 after clearing the House and Senate with overwhelming support. In addition to providing a federal definition of marriage, the law bars homosexual relationships from being recognized by the IRS or the Social Security Administration, and also excludes homosexuals that serve as government workers from being recognized as a couple in order to obtain insurance benefits.
Approximately eight federal courts have ruled that portions of DOMA are unconstitutional because of the denial of federal benefits, resulting in a number of appeals to the Supreme Court. Barack Obama has also been in favor of repealing DOMA, which he outlined as being part of his agenda and platform before being elected as president in 2008.
“We cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples,” he stated.
However, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage told reporters that the definition of marriage cannot be changed by any court.
“Unions of two men or two women are not the same thing as a marriage between a man and a woman,” he said. “And only marriage between a man and a woman can connect children to their mother and father and their parents to the children.”
Both the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases will be heard in March 2013, with decisions issued sometime in June.