What to Look Out for in Today’s DOMA Case and How Striking It Down Could Affect Gay Pennsylvanians
Marriage equality takes center stage again today, as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in U.S. v. Windsor, a case that takes on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The case, signed into law by Bill Clinton 17 years ago, denies gay married couples the federal rights granted to their opposite-sex counterparts.
The question on the Supreme Court judges’ minds is whether or not DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which says that states can’t strip citizens of “the equal protection of the laws.” Like in yesterday’s case against Prop 8, all eyes and ears will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is expected to be the swing vote to strike this bill down.
So if it is struck down, how would this affect us? As we’re all dreadfully aware, Pennsylvania doesn’t smile upon same-sex marriage, but in an interview with Brian Sims in January, the State Rep. said striking it down would create a good kind of havoc, Consider this hypothetical situation: A gay couple married in a state that allows same-sex marriage could move to Pennsylvania (or another of the 38 states that doesn’t recognize gay marriage). Would that mean their rights would be suddenly taken away? He says:
“If DOMA is struck down, those states [that don’t recognize same-sex marriage] will technically have to recognize laws in [marriage-equality] states. And if those states are forced to recognize marriages in other states you’re going to have a bunch of disparities in other circuits and … the Supreme Court will be forced to revisit it in three or four years. If nothing else it’s going to create a lot of confusion, and chaos in the legal system is good for the LGBTQ community. It will force decisions that are founded in law, and when those decisions come down they tend to be in favor of LGBTQ equality.”
It’s not looking like we’re going to get the sweeping ruling on same-sex marriage we were hoping for in yesterday’s Prop 8 case, but the DOMA case presents a whole new set of criteria to be excited about. To follow along today, I recommend following the SCOTUSblog on Twitter. This contingent of Supreme Court experts is on top of things, and they’re super-well informed. Their coverage of Prop 8 kept me on the edge of my chaise lounge. You’ll dig it, too.
And as always, keep an eye on G Philly. I’ll be re-tweeting/Facebooking the most important updates and will offer a recap of the day’s events later this afternoon. Go, firstname.lastname@example.org.