Court to Hear Two Marriage Cases

Could two rulings change the course of marriage equality in America?

Photo by Think Stock

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court made two important announcements that could impact the fuiture of marriage equality in this country. The first was an order granting review in the Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown) in California that challenges Proposition 8 which prevents same-sex couples from marrying. The court is tasked with deciding whether Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution concerned with depriving people life and liberty.

It all started three years ago when two California couples, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, argued that the Prop 8 ruling interfered with their freedom to marry. And by February of this year, the Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling calling Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The argument isn’t an easy one, though the American Foundation of Equal Rights (AFER) is the sole sponsor of the case.

“Proposition 8 has already been declared unconstitutional in Federal District Court and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Supreme Court has an opportunity to do the same and send a resounding message of hope to LGBT young people from coast to coast that they have the same dignity and same opportunities for the future as everyone else,” said AFER co-founder Chad Griffin. “I believe our cherished constitutional principles will win the day and that the Court will uphold the fundamental right that all Americans can marry the one they love.”

Edith Windsor (right) and the late Thea Spyer are at the center of the New York case

In a second case out of New York – where same-sex marriage has been legalized – United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could be history making. Because DOMA nullifies the marriages of gay and lesbian couples under federal law, it’s being argued that the federal law actually usurps a state’s rights – since New York has legalized same-sex marriage.

“This case is about the fundamental constitutional right of all Americans to marry the person they love,” said the Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Theodore B. Olson in a statement. “The plaintiffs we represent are two loving couples who, like millions of other gay and lesbian Americans, are being denied the right to marry and the right to be treated with equal dignity and respect under the law. The Supreme Court’s decision to grant review in this case illustrates the national significance of marriage equality, and brings us closer to the day when every American will be able to equally enjoy the fundamental freedom to marry.”

“Fourteen times the Supreme Court has stated that the freedom to marry is one of the most fundamental rights—if not the most fundamental right—of all Americans,” said Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies.  “As we have said from the very beginning of this case, the denial of that fundamental right seriously harms gay and lesbian Americans and the children they are raising.  It serves no legitimate state interest.  We are ready to defend our victories before the Supreme Court, where we will urge the Justices to reaffirm our Constitution’s central promises of liberty, equality, and human dignity.”

We’ll bring you updates on any breaking news and develops in both cases. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.