Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Local News

December 7, 2012

BREAKING: Supreme Court will hear same-sex marriage cases

Decision will have far-reaching consequences.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court plunged into the contentious issue of gay marriage Friday when it agreed to take up California’s ban on same-sex unions and a separate dispute about federal benefits for legally married gay couples.

The court’s action gives the justices the chance to say by late June whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals. Several narrower paths also are open to the justices as they consider both California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 and the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies to legally married gay Americans the favorable federal tax treatment and a range of federal health and pension benefits given to heterosexual couples.

The court is embarked on what could be its most significant term involving civil rights in decades. In the area of racial discrimination, the justices already have agreed to decide cases on affirmative action in admission to college and a key part of the Voting Rights Act. The gay marriage cases probably will be argued in March and decisions in all the court’s cases are likely by the end of June.

The order from the court extends a dizzying pace of change regarding gay marriage that includes rapid shifts in public opinion, President Barack Obama’s endorsement in May and votes in Maine, Maryland and Washington in November to allow gay couples to marry. Same-sex couples in Washington began picking up marriage licenses on Thursday.

Yet even as gay marriage is legal, or soon will be, in nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont are the others — and the District of Columbia, it is banned by the state constitutions of 31 others. Federal courts in California have struck down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but that ruling and thus gay unions remain on hold while the issue is being appealed.

The high court’s decision to hear the federal benefit question was a virtual certainty because several lower courts struck down the provision of the 1996 law and the justices almost always step in when lower courts invalidate a federal law.

There is nothing that compelled a similar response from the court in the case over California’s Proposition 8, the state constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters adopted in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. Indeed, the gay marriage supporters who prevailed in the lower courts urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the case and allow same-sex unions to resume in the nation’s largest state.

Even some gay rights activists worried that it was too soon in the evolution of views toward same-sex marriage to ask the justices to intervene and declare that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexuals. But Theodore Olson, the Washington lawyer who represents Californians who sued over Proposition 8, said he will argue that there is a “fundamental constitutional right to marry for all citizens.”

Opponents of gay marriage said Friday they are heartened by the Supreme Court’s action.

“We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage and a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

On the other side of the issue, advocates for same-sex unions said the court could easily decide in favor of gay marriage in California without issuing a sweeping national ruling to overturn every state prohibition on marriage.

In striking down Proposition 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals crafted a narrow ruling that said because gay Californians already had been given the right to marry, the state could not later take it away. The ruling studiously avoided overarching pronouncements.

“I think the court can easily affirm the 9th Circuit’s decision and leave for a later day whether broader bans on marriage are unconstitutional as well,” said James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The other issue the high court will take on involves a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, known by its acronym DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.

Four federal district courts and two appeals courts struck down the provision. Last year, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law, but continues to enforce it. House Republicans are now defending DOMA in the courts.

The justices chose for their review the case of 83-year-old Edith Windsor, who sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.

Windsor, who goes by Edie, married Thea Spyer in 2007 after doctors told them that Spyer would not live much longer. She suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. Spyer left everything she had to Windsor.

There is no dispute that if Windsor had been married to a man, her estate tax bill would have been zero.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with a district judge that the provision of DOMA deprived Windsor of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law.

In both cases, the justices have given themselves a technical way out, involving the legal issue of whether the parties have the required legal standing to bring their challenges, which would allow them to duck all the significant issues raised by opponents and supporters of gay marriage.

The cases are Hollingsworth v. Perry, 12-144, and U.S. v. Windsor, 12-307.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Shooting victim forgives assailant Misty Wallace was a high school senior with a full ride scholarship to play softball in college. Keith Blackburn was a high school dropout on drugs and in gangs, expecting to be either dead or in prison after taking on a life of crime. Their lives wi

    April 21, 2014

  • Take Back the Night and Angel Walk coming Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members will come together at Indiana University Kokomo next week to raise awareness of domestic violence through the annual Take Back the Night and Angel Walk. The rally begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

    April 21, 2014

  • tornadodamage34-20-04.jpg Kokomo Skating Arena: 10 years gone

    If you drive past the intersection of East Morgan and North Ohio streets these days you’ll see some trees, a parking lot and a Dollar General store. What you won’t see is the Kokomo Skating Arena, a landmark which stood on this corner for decades until a tornado caved the roof in April 20, 2004. Those who knew it well said they won’t soon forget it.

    April 20, 2014 6 Photos

  • Question Time: Name a baby (or babies) today

    “Imagine you’re having a baby (or babies) today. What would you name it (or them) and why? (You can give answers for a girl, a boy or both; and any combination for twins, triplets, etc.)”

    April 20, 2014

  • 400SUnion.jpg Counties move forward with flood mitigation one year later

    One by one, properties were bulldozed from the neighborhood between Carter and Murden streets in downtown Kokomo, physically erasing evidence of residential flooding in an area long prone to it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 400SUnion Counties move forward with flood mitigation one year later One by one, properties were bulldozed from the neighborhood between Carter and Murden streets in downtown Kokomo, physically erasing evidence of residential flooding in an area long prone to it. Removing homes along Park Avenue, near Waterworks Park

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Flooded area - E Murden 01 Jaimz family seeks closure after losing everything Ashley Jaimz and her sister, Amanda Urbina, took a drive through the Cedar Crest neighborhood the other day to view how residents were faring in the wake of a Nov. 17 tornado. The drive was intended to provide some closure to Jaimz, who is still stru

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - FEMA 03 Kokomo resident whose basement collapsed during flood repairs own home

    Walter Raderstorf can still remember sitting in his living room inside his home on West Park Avenue, realizing he had escaped a brush with death. “I was in the basement carrying stuff up and I came in here and sat down,” he said. “It wasn’t 30 second

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Late Kokomo teacher dedicates estate to foundation Longtime Kokomo School Corp. teacher Holly Kirkpatrick will continue to have a positive impact on students thanks to a $38,000 donation from her estate to the Kokomo Public Schools Education Foundation. Kirkpatrick died in November 2012 after teachin

    April 20, 2014

  • flood anniversary Thomas family ready to move on after flood In the Thomas household, few things take precedent over baseball. You’d be hard-pressed to find a couple more dedicated to youth baseball in Kokomo — or anywhere else for that matter — than Michael and Lashanda Thomas, who have passed that love of th

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries