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Supreme Court Issues Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Washington, DC
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Last Wednesday, the final day of the 2012-2013 Supreme Court session, the court ruled 5-4 that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The court also released a decision on another same-sex marriage case, dealing with California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The court ruled that the parties did not have standing to bring the case.

In U.S. v. Windsor, the Court is considering if the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates a person's right to equal protection under the law. In an unusual move, the Obama Administration decided not to defend DOMA at the Supreme Court, so the House of Representatives appointed a lawyer to defend the act. President Obama has publicly supported same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court struck down the provision of DOMA that denies benefits to legally married same-sex couples as a violation of the 14th amendment's right to equal protection under the law.

The decision states: "DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty."

In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court is asked to determine whether a state's definition of marriage as "between one man and one woman" violates a same-sex couple's rights under the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

The court vacated the 9th Circuit Court's decision and sent the case back to the 9th Circuit with instructions to dismiss the case.

From the decision: "We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here."

The ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry is being reported as clearing the way for California to legalize same-sex marriage without addressing the issue of same-sex marriage on a national level. From SCOTUSBlog: "for the time being, the order appears to be in effect and to prevent enforcement of Proposition 8 statewide."

The court released a decision in a third case, Sekhar v. United States, which deals with whether an attorney's recommendation can be the subject of an extortion attempt under the federal Hobbs Act. The court ruled that an attorney's recommendation is not property under the Hobbs Act.

Updated: Monday, July 1, 2013 at 9:16am (ET)

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