- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
- ISTOOK: IRS “wants to throw us in jail,” says tea party leader
- Easter woes: Chocolate costs soar, becoming ‘unaffordable’ luxury
- Michaels craft chain confirms hackers hit 3M customers
- Special Forces’ suicide rates hit record levels — casualties of ‘hard combat’
Gay marriage before Supreme Court? Cases weighed
Yet some opponents of gay marriage say the issue is too important, and California is too large a state, for the court to take a pass.
“The question is whether there’s a civil right to redefine marriage, as the California Supreme Court did. We don’t think there is,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Regardless of the decision on hearing the California case, there is widespread agreement that the justices will agree to take up a challenge to a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The law was passed in 1996 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton. It defines marriage for all purposes under federal law as between a man and a woman and has been used to justify excluding gay couples from a wide range of benefits that are available to heterosexual couples.
Four federal district courts and two courts of appeal have overturned the provision in various cases on grounds that it unfairly deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits. The justices almost always will hear a case in which a federal law has been struck down.
The Obama administration broke with its predecessors when it announced last year that it no longer would defend the provision. President Barack Obama went further when he endorsed gay marriage in May.
Republicans in the House of Representatives stepped in to take up the defense of the law in court.
Paul Clement, the Washington lawyer representing the House, said the law was intended to make sure that federal benefits would be allocated uniformly, no matter where people live.
“DOMA does not bar or invalidate any state-law marriage, but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriage,” Clement said in court papers.
The court has several cases to choose from, including that of 83-year-old Edith Windsor of New York. Windsor faces $363,000 in federal estate taxes after the death of her partner of 44 years in 2009. In two other cases, same-sex couples and surviving spouses of gay marriages in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are seeking a range of federal benefits, including Social Security and private pension survivor payments, access to federal employee health insurance and the right to file a joint federal income tax return.
In the only instance in which a gay couple already is receiving federal benefits, federal court employee Karen Golinski in San Francisco has been allowed, under a court order, to add her wife to her health insurance coverage. That could be reversed if the Supreme Court upholds the marriage law provision.
No matter which case the court chooses, the same issue will be front and center — whether legally married gay Americans can be kept from the range of benefits that are otherwise extended to married couples.
Justice Elena Kagan strongly suggested in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings that she would not take part in a gay marriage case from Massachusetts because she worked on it while at the Justice Department. The Massachusetts case is one of only two cases that have been decided by a federal appeals court. Windsor’s is the other.
Another case, from Arizona, has some similarities to the Defense of Marriage Act appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which invalidated Proposition 8 in California, struck down a state law that said only married state employees were eligible for health benefits and withdrew domestic partner benefits for unmarried state workers. Separately, the Arizona constitution bars same-sex marriage, so gay couples had no way to obtain the state benefits.
TWT Video Picks
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- Immigration still on hold: Boehner's office
- Supreme Court weighs appeal to concealed-carry gun laws
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- PRUDEN: When a bored president just 'mails it in'
- Nancy Pelosi washes immigrants' feet in humble Holy Week act then promotes on Twitter
- BRUCE: Obama deliberately emboldening America's enemies
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- With pot and e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco is just waiting to inhale emerging markets
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.