Gay marriage moves closer to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON Fri May 11, 2012 7:22pm EDT

Civil unions supporters rally in downtown Denver before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Colorado Civil Union Act in Denver May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Civil unions supporters rally in downtown Denver before the Colorado House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Colorado Civil Union Act in Denver May 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two big cases addressing marriage rights for gays and lesbians are on track to reach the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this year, keeping the focus on an issue President Barack Obama reignited with his endorsement this week.

The cases, originating on opposite coasts, go to the heart of a question that has churned for two decades: whether states and the federal government may refuse to recognize same-sex marriage.

How the high court would rule is impossible to know. In the court's most recent gay-rights case, the justices in 2003 struck down state anti-sodomy laws as an improper intrusion on private activity.

Lawyers for California same-sex couples are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to end its involvement, which would clear the way for a request for the Supreme Court to settle the issue.

Each day the government does not recognize the couples "is a day that can never be returned to them," lawyer Ted Olson wrote in a court filing in March.

Obama got both sides of the marriage debate fired up on Wednesday when he said he believes gays and lesbians should be able to marry. The comments to ABC News completed the president's self-described evolution on the subject and thrust the issue into his 2012 re-election campaign.

The California case tests whether the state's same-sex marriage ban, which voters approved in 2008 after 18,000 same-sex couples had obtained marriage licenses, violates due-process and equal-protection rights.

After a three-judge panel ruled for gay marriage in the 9th Circuit in February, backers of the ban asked that an 11-judge panel rehear the case. Should the court refuse, the backers are expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, struck a confident note in an interview. Lawyers for gays and lesbians, he said, need to prove that "our entire common law history going back to England was wrong."

The second major case is from Massachusetts, where gays and lesbians can legally marry but are ineligible for the federal benefits of marriage.

Seventeen married or widowed men and women suing for benefits won a 2010 ruling that is now on appeal. A decision is likely in the next several months from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, with the high court a possible next step.

Other cases in earlier stages are challenging laws that restrict same-sex relationships. A New York widow is suing over the tax treatment of her late wife's estate. The two were married in Canada in 2007.

Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for the Massachusetts plaintiffs, said it was hard to gauge how Obama's support for same-sex marriage might affect legal proceedings. "When you have the conversation, then you have the opportunity to change discriminatory laws," said Bonauto, director of the civil rights project for the legal group GLAD.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (68)
MarkSW wrote:
On June 12, 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival”. Sounds pretty cut and dry. With this precedent, they MUST allow same-sex marriage, and once and for all end the terrible discrimination that has made gay men and women second class citizens for too long!!!! Despite the pockets of prejudice that still sits on that high court, they will not be able to deny it!!

May 11, 2012 7:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KarlQuick wrote:
Can someone explain the advantage of having any (straight or gay) marriage law? …we need a license to do WHAT?
Obviously it is not to create or raise children since about half now are born and raised outside of wedlock.
Violence against women and child abuse are already addressed by the laws that protect unwed mother and single parent children.
Inheritence and ‘parental rights’ already do not require a formal marriage agreement.
Disposition of property upon devorce can be handled in prenuptual agreements or any contract the parties (any number and any sex) want to commitment themselves.
The wife’s last name need not change regardless.
Access to the bedside in a hospital or hospice is easily addressed by a medical power of attorney form.
So let’s see…
A) the “marriage penalty” under tax law;
b) pride in being said you are “legally” married.

Well certainly A is discriminatory; people should be taxed as individuals, not as chattle. We must eliminate the tax law marriage bias in any case.

Now as to B… is that like the pride in getting your first driver’s license?

Marriage is a WONDERFUL institution in which people practice and teach commitment, respect, honor, love and duty by example to their children and others. It predates laws and even formal religions.

A cerimony before a justice of the peace or clerk of court certainly is not demonstrating the honor marriage deserves!

My solution: end the intrusion of government into the domain of private life and/or churches! …strike all civil marriage law.

(Note: wasn’t it a violation of religious freedom when the government routed out poligamy from the mormons? …and a violation of equality when the government allows muslim male visitors to have multiple wives pass through customs? …individual passports please!)

In my humble opinion, the vast majority of those opposed to “gay marriage” is actually opposed to government intruding into their lives, forcing redefinitions of common words and insisting that people are no longer to believe privately what they choose to believe!

In my humble opinion, many who demand “gay marriage” are not even interested in tax advantages… they simply want a “blessing” from society and are too ignorant of the constitution to realize that the government is NOT a church, does NOT define morality, and certainly cannot “bless” them!

Please, NO PREJUDICE from either side! Simply realistically ask yourself what it is that a “marriage license” brings (all government can deliver) that a “personal commitment” (LOVE!) doesn’t vastly exceed? …pride? …what, you need nanny-state approval to have respect for yourself? NO WAY is that healthy!

SCOTUS should point out the “freedom of thought, belief, conscience” clauses of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and the historical documents describing the context in which all were written, and declare ANY regulation of “marriage” unconstitutional!

May 11, 2012 7:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Oilbrat wrote:
In this country it is supposed to be equal rights under the Constitution and and Bill of Rights and they don’t really mention marriage as some would like it to be. I say live and let live and these people geromes got mixed up when they were created at no fault of themselves nor their parents. That is God’s work for all you bigots out there that’s why I think protestant and clatholic religions are all a crock of good old boys beliefs and rules which is no different than the Muslims and their persecution of women.

And no I’m not bi or gay just like to see humans be treated as humans unless they are murders and then they should be put to sleep forever.

May 11, 2012 7:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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