Same-sex marriage is HUGE in the news right now. I’m sure everybody has heard all about the fact that it’s made it to the Supreme Court. Even if you don’t keep up with current events, if you’ve checked your facebook once in the past five days, it’s been there too. Most of Facebook has turned into insults and heated discussions via comments under statuses and pictures. While it’s incredibly super exciting that equality becomes more and more possible every day, but there’s so much stuff being thrown around that it’s all a little bit overwhelming. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the court case and everything that’s going on with it (because there’s a lot) so my goal today is to maybe simplify it down so it’s a little bit easier to understand.
Who started it?
Edith Windsor, an 83 year old woman is suing the United States of America. Her wife, who she was engaged to for 40 years and married to for 4, just passed away, leaving her not only with a broken heart, but a hefty estate tax bill. As Edith says, if her wife Thea had been a Theo, she would not have to pay. The case is dealing with the part of the law that states that marriage is between a man and a woman for purposes of federal benefits.
What’s the big idea?
The case is dealing with the part of the law that states that marriage is between a man and a woman for purposes of federal benefits. While some states allow gay marriage, or “domestic partnerships,” the debate is over marriage. A big part of it is whether or not these couples should be granted the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Also, they are fighting over equality not just in benefits, but in name and label. Gays should be allowed to get MARRIED, not just enter “unions” or “partnerships.”
One of the hardest parts for me about reading all of these articles is keeping track of who is who and what side they’re on.
-The Supreme Court Justices (obviously)- they’ll make the deciding factor in what the law will be. Four are thought to be aligned with a more conservative stand (man and women) while four seem to be okay with gay marriage. So, the big name you need to know is Justice Anthony Kennedy- he’s the swing vote.
-For equality: Meet General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., a solicitor who will spend time urging the justices to strike down the law. We also have Roberta A. Kaplan, Ms. Windsor’s lawyer, also clearly arguing for equality. Theodore Olsen. He’s an important one. A big-time conservative, legal hero, is fighting for gay marriage and against Proposition 8 (A California law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman). Sri Srinivasan, does not support the Defense of Marriage Act.
-For a man and a woman: Paul D. Clement will defend the idea that marriage is for a man and a woman. Charles J. Cooper: good friends (ex-friends?) with Theodore Olsen. He’s a strong lawyer representing ProtectMarriage.com. Vicki C. Jackson- she’s not as much of a bad guy, but she’s arguing that the Supreme Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case. If this were the case, everything would remain the way it is now, which isn’t what we want.
Where does Obama come into play?
Up until 2011, the law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman was defended in courts. In 2011, it was announced that President Obama and the Attorney General decided the law was unconstitutional and unworthy of defense in courts. They did add that the law would continue to be enforced by the administration. The justice department filed an appeal saying that the decision should come from the Supreme Court (and look where it is now!).
What could happen?
There are three major outcomes to this case.
- The court upholds the law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman. If this happened, in those states that allow gay marriage, unions, etc, those couples would still be denied federal benefits.
- The court strikes down the law and legalizes gay marriage (yay!). If this happens, in states where same-sex marriage is allowed, the couples will be able to accept federal benefits. For example, Edith Windsor would not have to pay her estate tax.
- A less likely option, but the court could decide that it does not have the power to decide the issue, which would probably lead to the Obama administration no longer enforcing the law.
When will we know?
It is unlikely that the Supreme Court will make a decision before June, so we have some waiting to do. Keep your fingers crossed and send some positive vibes toward Washington D.C!
Hope that helped a little!