SHE’S THE LAW: Supreme Court’s Rulings On Same-Sex Marriage Explained

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  • gay-marriageIn a historical decision today, the Supreme Court of the United States cleared the way to resume same–sex marriage in California and struck down a provision of federal law denying federal benefits to legally married gay couples. These two rulings by the Court, both 5-4 decisions, focused on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which sought to prevent legally married same-sex spouses from receiving federal tax, health and pension benefits and California’s Proposition 8, which sought to have marriage in the state only recognized as between a man and a woman.

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    What Does This Mean?:

    As it relates to DOMA, same-sex spouses, on a federal level, will no longer be treated differently when it comes to receiving federal benefits. This opens the door allowing legally married same-sex couples to effectively plan fiscally with their partners and reap the same benefits as all other couples, despite sexual orientation. The 5-4 decision read: “DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government. Under DOMA same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways.”

    The Proposition 8 ruling, was given more so as a “technical” legal finding. The SCOTUS decision did not specifically rule on same-sex marriage, yet, it left the decision in the California trial court’s hands, which already ruled that the voter approved same-sex ban in the state is unconstitutional. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is requesting the Court of Appeals to lift the stay on the ruling so same-sex marriage may resume in the state immediately.

    How Does This Affect You?:

    We all have constitutional rights as American citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. These two rulings have set the stage for continued progress in same-sex equality in our nation. “Due Process” and “Equal Protection” principles were the basis for these decisions and have formally set the stage for same-sex marriage in California to remain legal and also for all legally married same-sex couples to receive federal benefits. If you are a same-sex couple seeking to be married in California, today’s ruling by the SCOTUS keeps this option in place. Additionally, if you are already a legally married same-sex couple, or soon to be legally married same-sex couple in the United State, then federal benefits are yours to utilize as every other “legally” married couple does.

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